Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday June 23, 2011 A Glove Without a Hand by Diane Armitage

This is an article from The Magazine, by Diane Armitage

"At those times when the soul tends to be choked by material disbelief, art becomes purposeless and talk is heard that art exits for art's sake alone. Then is the bond between art and the soul, as it were, drugged into unconsciousness... It is very important for the artist to gauge his position aright... He must search deeply into his own soul, develop and tend it, so that his art has something to clothe, and does not remain a glove without a hand." --Wassily Kandinsky --Concerning the Spiritual in Art

The last hundred years has been the century for self-introspection, and our analytical findings have swung back and forth between the material and the non-material worlds of identity. Somewhere between Kant and Kandinsky, the practice of art became as good as any other system of thought for teasing out our intimations of the absolute and the ineffable. And Marx's dialectics seeded the ground for other kinds of formal thinking about being in the material world. Then in the early part of the last century, Malevich's careful placement of squares, rectangles, and triangles would act as a representative for art as a mirror of supremem states of consciousness--for art on a higher plane achieved by a thoughtful economy of means that relied on color, form, and composition. God was dead, some of the pundits cried, but long live art and the mystical imperative!

The early-twentieth-century artworld saw quite a few "isms" come into being, splitting apart not only the picture plane but concepts of time, mater, and energy in a frantic and prolonged dance of interchangeability; artists, even if they didn't know the specifics of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, were keen to make visible what is in essence an invisible process. Who can ever experience the speed of light squared? And if you could, would you even want to? All you would do is explode. But cultural explosions were part of the zeitgeist at that time, even if some of them meant embracing ideas about the transcendent and the mystical. And so color, form, and composition became vehicles for philosophical debate -- for a magical convertibility into experiences of cosmic consciousness. Enter Kandinsky and his book Concerning the Spriitual in Art.

... 2011 marked the hundred-year anniversary of Kandinsky's incredibly influential book--a work that was not only of its time, but would prove to have a long shelf life. Concerning the Spiritual in Art is undoubtedly one of the most quoted texts for a thirsty era of artists and theoreticians who keep gravitating to more meaningful levels of art practice and its accompanying discourse. Yet many individuals believe that the desire for spiritual experience within a work of art is hopeless or merely hokum--that art speaks only to and about itself. Still when Kandinsky wrote his book about art as a potentially pure and highly distilled response to an "inner necessity" that art could or should be an abstract mirror of a "mystical inner construction"--his ideas were definitely part of a not-uncommon slipstream of spiritual longings and occult preoccupations that had not gone out of fashion since the alchemical heydays of the Renaissance.

... Kandinsky believed that human emotion consists of subtle energetic fields and these are set in motion by our experiences of nature and exterior phenomena. He wrote, "Words, musical tone, and colors possess the psychical power of calling forth our vibrations... ultimately bringing about he attainment of knowledge...The artist's inner life was the prima materia for the creativw process.

Image by Hilma Af Klint. "Kandinsky believed that the artist's path involved unlocking the visible to reveal what is inside it."

...these artists were influenced by metaphysical ideas, Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevih, Arthur Dove, Georgia O'Keeffee, Agnes Pelton, Suzanne Duchamp, and her brother Marcel. ...many of the pioneers of abstraction such as Malevich, and painters who came later like Barnet Newman, Mark Rothko, and Agnes Martin, openly professed a spiritual basis in their work.

...Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Oric Orr, Robert Irwin, and Ann Hamilton--demonstrated their own clear links to a quest for provoking in viewers higher levels of awareness arrived at by the artists' conscious choice of color, for, and the judicious implementation and placement of materials.... It is from this wholly abstract inner space that the desire rose to concretize the abstractions, and so began the Modernist agenda.

Agnes Martin, Untitled, ink on paper, 9"x('. 1963.

It is our destiny to be double. Light itself is both a particle and a wave. We are matter and, o the atomic level, we are also a lot of empty space just waiting to give and receive emanations, vibrations, and a host of projections about the nature of what is. We gravitate to experiences that the material world presents to us, such as food, shelter, clothes, people, artwork, a flowing river, sunsets, a sky full of stars. But there is more to life than that. Our destiny of being double sometimes seems like a curse, and yet if we tilt mainly toward the material world, where does that leave the huge body of evidence for things not seen?
...Kandinsky believed that the highest purpose of art is to renew the age which spawns it. In regards to what is characterized as the art of our time, does Contemporary Art have something to clothe, or does it excel at cloning garments of emptiness and vapidness and a long narcissistic cell line of objects and spectacles applauded by gloves without hands? It's up to each one of us who seriously care about the evolution of culture to decide what is the sound of one empty glove clapping, or what induces genuine feelings of awe and a desire to investigate further the complexity of the depths with us.

Diane Armitage is a video artist and writer who also teaches art history at the Santa Fe Community College.

This article made me wonder... do people realize there is meaning behind art? Do you?


layers said...

A great thoughtprovoking post Annell, I myself am always looking for content and meaning in my work and in other artist's works.. I love the analogy you have here and the quotes.. if I just see a painting with color, texture shape or line and nothing else I find I do not respond to it..

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Wonderful and strong nice to read lines from Kandinsky...glove without a hand. Thank you for this post!

Rob-bear said...

All behaviour has meaning; sometimes for the "behaver" and sometimes for the "observer," too.
I tend to think of art as a statement in non-linear form.