All Art Is Not Politics

SixShots
SIX SHOTS by Gregg Fedchak

I had a college professor who repeated, like a mantra, “All art is politics.”

Not true.  As an artist, I can safely say that, “All art is whatever color paint I have in front of me today.”

I get the professor’s point.  We’re all embedded in a culture, our culture, the culture and time and place we live in today.  To the extent that you think politics is the most important thing in life, you’re likely to believe that politics equals culture.

Art is politics only when you consciously sit down and plan your art, beforehand, to be a political statement, and an obvious one.  I’ve tried that.  It produces my weakest art, probably because politics is weak broth for anything serious.

The strongest art comes from the unconscious gesture, an assault upon the blank canvas with whatever those paint colors are in front of you, with no idea where you’re headed.

Even then, the “all art is politics” cult would say that your unconscious is shaped by politics, and ultimately determines the nature and/or subject of your work.

No.  Besides what colors have hardened and which still flow, my art is determined by my mood, by whether the cat just threw up, by whether it’s raining out or not, by whether I’m constipated or hungry or zipped on caffeine.  Politics still hums in the background, but no more than hums my blood sugar level, flies dying on the windowsill, random prayers or oaths, how bad the Orioles lost last night, whether or not my favorite shirt is wearing out, or whatever.

LooseGrid
LOOSE GRID by Gregg Fedchak

Only people addicted to or obsessed by politics would favor politics as a bigger mover of the world than religion, family, or acid reflux.  Art reflects what we obsess over.

I obsess over color.  Therefore, I say, “All art is color.  Or the lack thereof.”

There may be Red States and Blue States.  But I live in purple.  It’s the only way to stay sane.

IMGP1711 copy

 

Advertisements

ROBERT MOTHERWELL In The Studio

51s-bcj4WLL

This brief memoir of the equally brief time that author/artist/designer/builder John Scofield spent with abstract expressionist Robert Motherwell as his studio assistant in Connecticut is similar to the Salinger books that I looked at previously.  It comes at its subject indirectly, mildly, sideways, and is as much about the author as it is about the author’s subject.

Scofield is maddeningly “protestant” is how he only hints at potentially hot subjects.  Was Motherwell an alcoholic?  Did he partake of the marijuana that his friend, sculptor David Smith, apparently favored as an aid in getting through the long Adirondack winters?

DT8611
THE HOMELY PROTESTANT, Robert Motherwell 1948 via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

We get the idea that Motherwell was worse for wear in the years 1975 – 1978, when Scofield was one of his studio assistants.  About 60, just out of heart surgery, he needed Scofield, and we see a little bit here, a little bit there of Motherwell that we hadn’t seen before.

Like the Salinger books, this is for real Motherwell fans.  I’m one of them.  The most intellectual of the abstract expressionists – Pollock, de Kooning, Kline, and so on – his work is cooler than that of many other painters of his generation.  His images are the most abstract of all, and while you can easily read the lyricism of a Pollock drip painting or the manic writing/rewriting of a de Kooning, a Motherwell takes more imagination.

When you see a Pollock, you can feel how “in the groove” he was.  When you see one of de Kooning’s classic women, on “bicycles” or otherwise, you can feel how ambivalent he was about women.

But what of Motherwell’s THE HOMELY PROTESTANT above?  That’s tough to crack.

His colleagues and rivals not-so-secretly thought that he was a lightweight, not very talented, and shielded by trust funds.  History says otherwise.

But then you see:

5113451195_14f962d972_b
in beige with charcoal, Robert Motherwell 1973, via Minimal Exposition

We are left with many, many questions.  Even more, I think, than with my own sort-of-similar painting below, PISTON:

Piston

PISTON is an abstract notion of an engine piston.  But what is an “in beige with charcoal”?

Motherwell insisted that his art always had a subject.  I think there’s one there, and I think that Motherwell – and Scofield – respect that viewers can dig out meaning, even if the meaning varies from viewer to viewer and from time to time.