When we examine three paintings from the American Abstraction and Pop Art style we can see the impact of media and process on style and meaning. Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles”, 1952 is an action painting from the Abstract Expressionism movement which could be showing what was happening in America in the 1950’s. Mark Rothko in “Number 10” wanted to involve the viewer in experiencing basic human emotions. Roy Litchenstein’s “Hopeless” was trying to create relatable futuristic images that make fun of the chaos of reality.
These compositions were done post war and are American Abstract Art works and Pop Art. They are all very significant and have deep meanings that connect them to the individual style of the artist. The process and the different types of media that they use are also very important parts of the work and help create unique effects and also relate to the style and the meaning of the composition. In the composition Blue poles, the main media that Pollock used was oil on canvas. He also used sand and fragments of glass which he put into the paint.
Pollock always painted on the floor and stood over the painting as he felt more connected and a part of the composition. He used his paint brushes like sticks hovering above the surface of the painting and never touching the canvas. Pollock felt that by doing this he could achieve more spontaneous movements of the body. He could also use gravity to help with his drips of paint and was able to walk around his composition and reach every corner. In Blue Poles he even steps on the composition!
He paints the “poles” in the composition by using a big wooden pole and dipping it in paint and pressing it onto the canvas. The viewer can almost feel the process of Pollock splattering the paint and imagine the sensation of oving freely across the canvas with gestures of paint. The movements of the splatters in the composition are very important and create a feeling of letting go and emphasise the energetic colour and feel. The repetition of the blue poles creates rhythm and pattern within the messiness of the paint splatters.
The composition was painted in 1952 when America was having conflict with Korea. The blue poles are the main subject matter of the composition and they are wonky which could be showing that America was trying to act strong like the poles but in reality they are skewed by the chaos and estruction going on around the world. Mark Rothko; No 10 1950 is also an oil on canvas painting. He always mixed his oil paintings himself and mixed pigment with binder and diluted it to spread across the unprimed and unstretched canvas.
Rothko would paint with his canvas attached to the wall and would paint with fast and light brush strokes and would also use dry brushing and scumbling techniques. Rothko always painted in the early morning under intense lighting conditions. Rothko’s composition is a large scale of 234. 9×179. 4 cm as he wanted to make the viewer intimate with the painting. Rothko felt that a large picture like No 10 created an immediate transaction and takes the viewer into the composition. There is a strong sense of intimacy and invitation that is countered by absence and abstraction.
Although he didn’t like the term Rothko is known as a color field painter and he uses this style to get across an emotional response from the viewer through the use of resonant colours. Rothko was also irritated and dismayed when he was described solely as a colourist. Rothko wanted to translate basic human emotions of doom, ecstasy and tragedy and create drama to the viewer. He lso wanted to communicate the religious experience that he felt when he was making the artwork. However Rothko did not want the viewer to be moved by the relationship of the colours in the composition as he felt that the viewer and was missing the point.
But it is difficult to feel indifferent to the colours. His earlier works tended to be in reds and yellows and oranges but by the early 1950’s he was moving towards blues, greens, grays and blacks, perhaps because of his increasing depression. There is tension between the spaces in the composition. Translucent paint is saturated and stained cross the canvas and the edges are also blurred to create a luminous quality. This composition is a large area of colour with no definite forms. Roy Lichtenstein’s Hopeless, 1963 is an oil on canvas as well.
Like the other compositions this was also done at the time of post war in America. Lichtenstein used a stencil process when creating his artworks and imitated the mechanical printing used for commercial art. Lichtenstein used stencils for majority of his works so that his compositions would look mass produced. He very meticulously executed his work so it would look machine ade and he even went to the extent to hide his brush strokes so they couldn’t be seen. He took familiar images from everyday items such as cartoons, advertisements, gum wrappers and recomposed them.
He blew up the images and reproduced them with dark black outlining, primary colours and used Ben- Day dots. These three elements were the base of Lichtenstein’s style. Lichtenstein had the ability to take visual sources from other artists work and transform them into his own work. When Lichtenstein was looking for visual sources he would look for something strange, absurd, obvious, extremely simple or xtremely complicated or something that would strike you as humorous. The theme of love is prominent in this composition.
This composition is of a woman that is stuck in a relationship with a domineering man who is making her miserable. The girl in this composition is perceived as a typical “girl next door” where the girl seems to be a victim of an unhappy love affair and displaying helplessness. The image of the objectified girl could also reflect what was going on in America at that time as women were experiencing feelings of hopelessness. Betty Friedan in her 1963 best seller, “The Feminine Mystique” wrote bout these women, “theirs was the problem with no name”.
A question that echoed around this generation of US housewives was “is this all? ” These three contrasting compositions from the American Abstraction and Pop Art Movement show the impact of various media and processes on the style and messages in the artworks. Jackson Pollock’s chaotic looking Blue Poles shows intense energy in the paint splatters without any central focus on traditional forms. Mark Rothko’s more calming colourfield composition also has no definite traditional forms but it makes the viewer feel more relaxed. In contrast Roy Lichtenstein’s
Hopeless with the form of the crying girl forces the viewer to feel sadness. There is no other emotion that you get from this. He uses words to shout out the meaning. These first two compositions are completely removed from traditional paintings from the last century which are more focused on the image. Pollock’s process of splattering paint and Rothko’s blurring paint to get a luminous effect seemed to be more about the process of painting rather than the final product. That’s not to make an assumption that the painting is not aesthetically pleasing as those with traditional forms.
The last composition is more focused on the image but it elevates a comic book picture to something artistically important. All three compositions have in depth meanings. Pollock seems to be expressing pent up rhythmical movement and energy. Rothko is using colour to express depth of feeling. Litchenstein is expressing how a woman feels using images from popular and familiar mediums such as comic strips and he subtly changes the image to make the viewer relate and empathise with the girl. All three compositions reflect the rapidly changing styles in art of post World War Two America.