ALLURE OF ABSTRACTION

9 06 2012

WHAT ‘S IN AN ABSTRACT?

A few months ago I came across a handwritten note by a very good artist, in his eighties – who just happens to like  classical representational art. He not only did not like abstract painting – he disliked it. OK – many people do not like abstractions – but they have the wisdom to say -‘ I don’t understand it’. What is the Artist trying to say?  That is a valid point. You must understand something before you appreciate it or pass an opinion. I personally struggled for a long time because I did not understand Christo. However –  after a few  videos, his  biographical book, and a few other books on his art – I came upon the ‘aha’ moment. I got it! And ever since  that moment a few years back –  I am trying to the best of my abilities to explain  his art to others – to the best of my understanding.  Back to  the old school Artist, who dislikes Abstract art.  So much so, that he had the audacity to cut out an Article form a newspaper, about a celebrated abstract artist Helen Frankenthaler, with a note  addressed to his fellow-artist buddy:  ‘ Hi  John! Here is another example of hoe talentless fraud is accepted as art  and equally kook-y critics!'”. I just happen to know ‘John’,  who knows I love abstract art and just lets me have the  cut outs… The point here is – it is so easy to  dismiss something one does not understand. And  for some – belittling and degrading something they simply cannot   grasp – comes even easier.

But WHY?

Why dismiss something that clearly has values to many – aesthetic value, poetic value,  even monetary value ….. That brings me to  enclosing some reprints from a a well known publication about my favorite  abstract artist – Gerhard Richter – named lately ” The Top Selling Living artist“:  by Wall Street Journal in an  article by Kelly Crow.

About Gerhard Richter’s unrivalled success Mr. Crow adds: “The artist’s ascent is being driven by market demands as much as curatorial merit: Auction houses and museums, eager for new masters to canonize, are showcasing Mr. Richter’s works around the world at an ever-increasing clip. An influx of international collectors and dealers are also seizing the moment to buy or sell his pieces at a profit—including art-world tastemakers such as Russian industrialist Roman Abramovich, French luxury-goods executive Bernard Arnault, dealer Larry Gagosian, Taiwanese ele
ctronics mogul Pierre Chen and New York hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen

Mr. Richter’s work is uniquely suited to the tastes of the current art market. Like Picasso, he paints in a number of different styles—from rainbow-hued abstracts to poignant family portraits—giving collectors plenty of choice. Like Warhol, he is prolific, which ensures a steady volume of his works in the marketplace—yet enough of his works are in museum collections that he has avoided a glut. And ever since the deaths last year of painters Cy Twombly and Lucian Freud, collectors searching for another senior statesman have started giving his work a closer look.

Collectors are paying a particular premium for Mr. Richter’s larger abstracts from the
late 1980s, which have all the visual impact of a work by Francis Bacon or Mr. Rothko, artists whose prices spiked before the recession. These abstracts are also immediately identifiable as being Mr. Richter’s creations, making them easy status symbols. San Francisco dealer Anthony Meier says, “Collectors want an iconic work in a format that everyone recognizes. Monkey see, monkey do”

As Terry Teachout points out in his article “ The Seductive Allure of Abst

raction” :

“Part of what makes this series so fascinating is that Mr. Diebenkorn, who died in 1993, waged a lifelong “battle” with abstraction. He started out as a gifted Abstract Expressionist painter. In 1955 he suddenly embraced representation, turning out dozens of figurative paintings that translate the language of Matisse into a wholly personal, semiabstract style. Then, in the Ocean Park series, he made a decisive return to total abstraction, in the process creating the most original works of his career.

“To chart Mr. Diebenkorn’s stylistic development is to be reminded of the near-overwhelming power of the idea of abstraction in the 20th century. It was even felt by artists who, like Pierre Bonnard and Fairfield Porter, never produced an abstract painting in their lives, but were nonetheless influenced by the way in which practitioners of abstraction created what Mr. Diebenkorn called “invented landscapes,” nonobjective images that evoked the world of tangible reality while steering clear of literal representation.”

“Just as Kandinsky turned his back on figuration, so did the atonal composers of the early 20th century, led by Arnold Schoenberg, abandon tonal harmony, the fundamental ordering principle on which all Western classical music had previously been based. In a tonal composition, harmonic movement is the “plot” that propels the listener through time. Schoenberg, by contrast, sought to express his inmost feelings in a raw, unmediated way instead of using large-scale tonal architecture to shape them into conventionally coherent structures. “One must express oneself! he told Kandinsky in 1911.Express oneself directly! Not one’s taste, or one’s upbringing, or one’s intelligence, knowledge or skill. Not all these acquired characteristics, but that which is inborn, instinctive.”

Whatever causes the Abstract Art to  be in the center of such controversies as despised by some and revered by others  – is certainly not going away. Abstract Art  is here to stay. For those of us – who love Abstract Art – and even paint abstract – this is the good news. For the ones, who have not grown to at least like it – I would say – “Get over it!  Spend more time trying to understand it and less time complaining and maybe you will figure out why abstract art is so timeless…’ For now, my Abstract lovers – let us enjoy Richter’s unlimited imagination, while he keeps being amazed at his  own success….

Yours truly,

 

 Tsvetana Yvanova

 for The Art Chronicle





TURNING DREAMS INTO BRONZE

6 06 2012

 PORTRAIT OF NICK

The story of this portrait is probably most unusual and has more depth  for  me than anyone else.  Our story started officially on June 3d. But it began a year before that. I have no intention of boring you with details of how I met Nick – but the truth is  it was   an accidental unexpected stroke of  simple destiny.  The suddenness, the beauty and the poetry of it –   will stay with me forever.  Instant bond.  He had this inexplicable capacity to bring the best in people.  Our connection ignited into a wonderful exchange of moments where we would literally finish each other’s thoughts.

On our first trip on Roamer III – he  invited me for lunch. Lunch was an hour away by water  from Marina Del Rey to Redondo Beach.  In  a warm California day in June, there is no better place to be than on water off the coast. The ocean  at this time of the year  is dark blue with playful ripples  as far as the eyes can see.  The coolness of the water, maintaining the steady 64 degrees Farenheit  offsets the summer heat. This extravagant gesture was meant to impress me – and that it did ! Magnificent ocean  views aside – on a purely intellectual level, I  always had a fascination of Motor Yachts  as well – their compact design, the aerodynamic grace, with which they are seeming gliding  on the surface, while reaching depths to preserve balance. The  inherent wisdom of their utility, where nothing must be in excess, except quality – the fine balance between necessities and  luxuries. The lack of space was complimented by high quality of craftsmanship and ingenuous design. Like a giant jewelry box  – everything in Roamer  III was well maintained, despite the fact that she was ready to be retired.

I was very new at Yachting – and fascinated immensely – being at awe of the ocean to begin with.  Roamer III was a lady. What a brave adventurer she was – a wanderer.  She could be tosses left and right – but always maintained balance.  (I believe it has a lot to do with technology on board.)  Roamer and I were quickly became best friends.  I loved the way the engine hummed away  – while gliding    through the surface of the water making its way towards the breakers.  I had to learn the terminology – ‘top deck’  ‘starboard’ and ‘port’  – and  at some point I even graduated to navigating it for an hour   in open ocean and was able to dock Roamer back into her slot, without wrecking it !

That particular day – it was a beautiful day in  June  9th  in early 2000  –  on top deck , on our way to Redondo Beach  – I observed him very carefully . It was sheer joy to see Nick navigate or dock his 75 foot ‘Princess’,  with focused and precise movements, that came  so naturally to him.  His profile was so distinctively British and hansome with the unruly long hair and bronzed skin. There was a remarkable unity between the color of his Celtic blue eyes and the color of the Pacific ocean at that moment. I    marveled the moment   –  while he watched me  be enthralled with the school of dolphins, that were  racing  the yacht.  I  wanted to remember this moment forever.  He  looked incredibly content in his reserved quiet kind of  way – given away only by the glimmer in his blue eyes!  I took some photos. This moment – the ocean, with all its blue power ,  the joy  of dancing dolphins,  Nick with  his boundless passion for yachting and me – all in one place  – will stay with me until my last day .

In the summer of 2005, I was getting ready for an art  show and I wanted to make a sculpture portrait of  Nick  as a surprise. The thought stayed with me for a long time. It always takes me a while before I make a decision to sculpt or paint someone close. In spring 2005 I finally started. I decided to  use water based clay, because it allowed me to work faster and achieve a more spontaneous effects.  His long unruly hair was a challenge – but it worked out well. Nick was   a  passionate Contemporary Art Collector with rather avant-guarde  taste and the portrait needed to reflect his persona and his visionary temperament.  There was something inspirational about him, that does not lend itself  to defining in words. I finished the piece on time and was able to cast it on time for the show.  As the show approached – I was  hoping Nick will come. He was out of town – in Cleveland, where he maintained a permanent residence – a place he loved very, very  much and where he spent a great deal of time.

The Art reception and opening were on July 9, 2005.  Attendance was fantastic –  Tony Michaels  piano virtuoso and Carol Chaikin  on trumpet  –  filled the air with  exquisite jazz improvisations;  everyone had a wonderful time. The next two days brought great  sales too.  Reception was at the Balboa Bay Club,  in Newport Beach. Nick did not come. He could not make it –  he sent someone else  instead  as an act of grace. He always used to do this. His impeccable  blue blood manners were his signature. After the show we talked  a  lot. A couple of weeks after the show we were planing to have dinner as soon as he returns from his short trip to London and Bordeaux, France. That was the last time we spoke.

He never  went to France.   Nor  to London that month. He never  even saw his portrait . Things developed with lightning speed. On August 19 – I received a call. Nick had undergone a six hour emergency operation, from which he did not wake up. It had happened the day before.

But the portrait,  remained  as a pure embodiment of that beautiful June afternoon, when  the stars  were aligned and the world was happy – Nick was happy – and I was extatic. He literally changed my perception of life. He brought out the best in me. That moment – I try to capture  in his subtle smile. His  head is tilted, looking down at the rotor handling  with absolute  precision  the   Read the rest of this entry »