Masters’ Influence

“Learning from books and teachers is like traveling by carriage, so we are told
in the Veda. But, the carriage will serve only while one is on the highroad.
He who reaches the end of the highroad, will leave the carriage and walk afoot.”

Johannes Itten

“In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is – as it physically is.
This fact makes color the most relative medium in art.”

Joseph Albers

Johannes Itten

1888-1967  

A Master of Art Education, a scholar and researcher of humanities,
who had studied history, literature, the fine arts, and philosophy. 

Itten’s teaching principles revolutionized art education and remains central to art education today.
His pioneering teaching was not aimed at teaching of art but the value of man’s creative forces; encouragement of self-expression and experimentation with materials and techniques instead of following and copying the old masters; exploring the essential and contradictory characteristics of different materials, expressing the opposing qualities and contrasts.

 He was a highly spiritual man, encouraging his students to embrace mysticism as part of their art practice, meditate and work intuitively to maximize creativity and develop creative solutions.

Life as the Greatest Canvas of Art

My best lessons, validation and acknowledgment have come from teaching principals of Itten; it is much contained in the following quote that I wish to share with anyone who seeks fulfillment.

“If new ideas are to assume artistic form, physical, sensual, spiritual and intellectual
 forces and abilities must all be equally available and act in concert.” J.I.

This is the fundamental process through which the essence of one’s spirit, which 
reflects through his work, gives meaning to what he creates.

"Our knowledge is a receding mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance."

Will Durant
1885-1981
America’s gentle philosopher

He sought to unify and harmonize the great body of historical knowledge, which had grown voluminous and become fragmented into esoteric specialties, and to vitalize it for contemporary application.

Joseph Albers

1888-1976
Joseph Albers was a German-American painter, graphic artist, designer, and influential teacher, who investigated color relationships in his geometrical abstractions. He studied and then taught design at the avant-garde Bauhous School in Weimar Germany in close association with Johannes Itten.

He emphasized functionalism and suitability in modern design. After the Bauhaus was closed by the Nazis in 1933, Albers went to Black Mountain College, North Carolina, where he taught Bauhaus principles to his pupils such as Robert Rauschenberg. When Yale University formed a department of design in 1950, Albers became its head, retiring from that position in 1958.

       In the famous experimental Homage to the Square series, on which Albers worked through the 1950s, progressively smaller forms are calculated to illustrate his theories of how changes in placement, shape, and light produce changes in color. Albers’s Interaction of Color (1963) is a basic text. His work influenced the Op Art and Minimal Art of the 1960s.

"Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers." JA

Albers’ principals of teachings were very much aligned with Itten’s; believing that it is through the
 asking of guiding questions that an inner explorations of ideas would lead to subjective solutions for the refinement of personal expressions.

Albers’ graduate assistant at Yale was Homer Mitchelle, who was an exceptional colorist,
artist/designer and an amazingly inspiring teacher.

I was very fortunate to have him as my mentor/friend for several years
before he passed in 2011 at the age of 92.

Albers –  Color studies for Homage to the Square

Hans Hofmann

1880-1966

Hans Hofmann was a German-born American painter with an established career in science and engineering. He was a leading figure in modern art movement often referred to as the Father of Abstract Expressionism. He trained many of the most accomplished abstract artists of the era.

The central focus of his teaching was the spiritual aspects of art that gave a personal expression of meaning to art; without which, even the most perfect imitation of reality is a lifeless expression. It is true that art receives its impulse from nature and artistic experience evoked by the artist’s command of the spiritual means of the fine arts, through which this artistic consciousness is transformed by him onto reality in painting.

The influence of European surrealists use of automatism — a technique in which the artist paints or draws with as little conscious control as possible — and their acceptance of the role of accident in art led him to techniques of pouring and spattering combined with conventional brushwork. Hofmannn use of warm and cool colors, as well as different shapes, textures, and gestural marks generated a sense of movement and energy as a visual “push and pull.”

He believed nature with its infinite and unrestricted variety of rhythms is there for the art to clarify itself and attain the same degree of sublimity, raising itself to a state of multiple harmony of colors that are divided at one moment and restored to wholeness at the next.

The assignments of the scholastic years are there to be understood to ensure further developments of the artist, who must then detach himself entirely from schools and directions and evolve a signature of his own.

Looking back through my journey, I am now more consciously aware of Hofmann’s influence in developing my aesthetic judgement.

“Art is inspired by nature and artistic experience evoked by the artist’s command of the spiritual means of the fine arts, through which his artistic consciousness is transformed onto reality in painting.” H.H.

Jackson Pollock

1912-1956

American painter who was a leading figure of Abstract Expressionism, an art movement
characterized by the free-associative gestures in paint sometimes referred to as
“action painting.” During his lifetime he received widespread publicity and serious recognition for the radical poured, or “drip,” technique he used to create his major works.

Among his contemporaries, he was respected for his deeply personal and totally uncompromising commitment to the art of painting. His work and example had enormous influence on them and on many subsequent art movements in the United States.

He was highly intelligent, widely read, and, when he chose, incisively articulate. He believed that art derived from the unconscious, saw himself as the essential subject of his painting, and judged his work and that of others on its inherent authenticity of personal expression.

Pollock's work style was liberating...

"On the floor, I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way, I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting." J.P.

Gerhard Lichter

(1932-     )
Gerhard Richter is a German painter who originally trained in a realist style and later developed an appreciation for the more progressive work of his American and European contemporaries.

Working alongside but never fully embracing a quick succession of late-20th-century art movements, such as Abstract Expressionism, American/British Pop Art, Minimalism ad Conceptualism, Richter has absorbed many of their ideas, while remaining skeptical of all grand artistic and philosophical credos.

In Richter’s completely abstract canvases, personal emotion and all traces of the painter’s autobiography seem missing. The painting’s many layers, strokes, and scrapes of color may thus appear as “beautiful” as anything found in nature that came into existence partly according to a predetermined structure (such as DNA), as well as by way of unpredictable occasions of pure chance and the action of outside forces

The other common themes in his work are the elements of chance, and the play between realism and abstraction.

“What I am attempting in each picture is nothing other than this: to bring together
in a living and viable way, the most different and the most contradictory
elements in the greatest possible freedom.” G.R.

Sam Francis

1923-1994

One of the twentieth century’s most profound Abstract Expressionists, American artist Sam Francis is noted as one of the first post-World War II painters to develop an international reputation. Francis created thousands of paintings as well as works on paper, prints, housed in major museum collections and institutions around the world.

 Regarded as one of the leading interpreters of color and light, his work holds references to New York abstract expressionism, color field painting, Chinese and Japanese art, French impressionism and his own Bay Area roots.

His paintings embody his love of literature, music and science, while reflecting his deep range of emotions and personal turmoil.

There are many aspects of Sam’s work that encouraged me to try new things that became very rewarding to me.

"Painting is about the beauty of space and the power of containment." S.F.

Victor Vasarely

1906-1997

Victor Vasarely was a Hungarian geometric abstraction painter. As a young man he attended the Academy of Painting in Budapest (1925-1927) and then studied under Alexander Bortnyik at the Bauhaus School of Budapest (1929-1930) and profoundly influence by its principles.

The Bauhaus schools were noted for approaches to architecture and graphic design that were compatible with machine production of high quality and with well-designed objects and environments.

His work was much influence by Salvador Dali, whose images were painstakingly rendered for illusionistic effect despite the illogical juxtaposition of recognizable objects.

Vasarely’s concern with optical perception had led him to explore the effects of motion, not of the art object but of the viewer in relation to it. Some of his works were composed of several overlapped sheets of Plexiglas on which black designs had been painted; the slightest motion of the viewer made the design seem to change and move as well.

At the zenith of Op Art in the 1960s, Vasarely was recognized as its pioneer and greatest master. He continued to work in the Op Art style with an undiminished reputation well into the 1980s and was widely honored. 

“My work is a poetic creation with palpable qualities capable of 
triggering emotional and imaginative processes in others.” V.V.

Robert Rauschenberg

1925-2008

Robert Rauschenberg’s achievements as a multi-disciplined artist is very impressive to say the least. His approach to art included painting, printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, theater design and performing arts.

Although he had studied under the disciplines and coaching of Joseph Albers, his work became focused on worldwide issues having no aesthetic or political agenda, using technology and the media in a very imaginative and innovative manner, working completely against the Abstract Expressionism that had spread all around him.

 His work on canvases incorporated newspapers, fabric, and found objects and evolved in 1954 into the Combines; a term Rauschenberg coined for his well-known works that integrated aspects of painting and sculpture and would often include such objects as a stuffed eagle or goat, street signs, or a quilt and pillow. He used everything he could possibly find to put on his canvas and his production was very unedited.

While his work exhibited fresh and intriguing techniques, they lacked aesthetic quality, which never was his intent; as he endeavored to express life in its very raw, unorganized and cluttered state.

Shortage of affection in his childhood explains why an atmosphere of communal warmth and the company of devoted assistants were so important to him during the last few decades of his life on the coast of Captiva Island in Florida.

Using the latest technologies, he produced monumental projects in concepts as well as scale; and he was handsomely rewarded by a good degree of economic success during his life. His retrospective in 1997 contained more than 400 items, which makes it one of the largest one-man shows ever at the Guggenheim Museum.

He had a pleasant personality with a big-spirited, funny, crazy, fearless quality that was a significant aspect of his art and achievements

Courage is a necessity in art – and in life. Taking chances for the sake of discovery, willing
to make mistakes and be wrong and persisting through challenges are the liberating
 fundamentals of developing new skills and improve abilities, where we afford ourselves the
luxury of of happy accidents.When we combine knowledge, skills and experiences we
develop confidence, which in turn breeds competence.

  Rauscheberg was a great example in exhibiting and reminding me of these
fundamentals that played a significant role in my development. 

Iran Lawrence 

Barnett Newman

1905-1970

Barnett Newman was born in New York City, the son of Polish immigrants, and attended the Art Students’ League like many of his contemporaries. He had always been well-known in art circles as a polemist, often engaging in disputatious or controversial debates in writing about art and ideas always emphasizing content over formal issues.

Newman’s abstract expressionism work addresses the primordial experience and the transcendent singular act.He painted dramatic canvases with a vertical band or zip that acts like an opening within the picture field and interrupts a unified color field. The zip functions as a break in the canvas rather than a compositional line, a break through which we are asked to go beyond the canvas. But it is the color that suggests presence, or in Newman’s terms, the sublime.

“I hope that my painting has the impact of giving someone, as it did me, 
the feeling of his own totality, of his own separateness, of his own understanding.” B.N..

Georgia O'Keeffe

1888-1976

One of the first female abstract painter / teacher to achieve worldwide acclaim, Georgia O’Keeffe was an American painter who created innovative impressionist images that challenges perceptions. 

 In her paintings she typically presented single blossoms or objects such as a cow’s skull in close-up views. Although O’Keeffe handled her subject matter representationally, the clear coloring, linear quality and the boldly patterned compositions produced abstract designs.

A number of her works have an abstracted effect; the flower paintings in particular, in which the details of the flower are so enlarged that they become unfamiliar and surprising.

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.” G.O.

Paul Jenkins

1923-2012

An important figure in the Modern Art Movement of the 20th century, Paul Jenkins work came to maturity during the reign of Abstract Expressionism in New York and abroad with his intuitive, chance-based approach to painting. Working first with oil paints and later acrylic, Jenkins poured paint directly on the canvas, allowing it to drip, bleed, and pool, as well as manipulating it with an ivory knife.

Jenkins’s silky and gentle streaks, fluid fields of color positioned him as an influential artist within the realm of abstract expressionism, and he often exhibited in the same venues as Jackson Pollock, and other prominent artists who shared his instinctual working method.

“I try to paint like a crapshooter throwing dice, utilizing past experiences and
 my knowledge of the odds. It’s a big gamble, and that’s why I love it.” P.J.

Magic of Admiration

Admiration holds a mysterious phenomenon that cannot be easily explained in words; phenomenon that I can now acknowledge personally with humility.

 I have never shied away from challenges as they have contributed to major breakthroughs in my personal growth and development. At the height of any difficulties, what I realize now on the hindsight is my intuitive belief in myself and instinctual recognition of what I could truly admire about my challenges, knowing that resistance would only attract more of the same, but admiration would vanish them into a vast space. This is how I have pushed through with persistence without resistance, while tracking to find their blessings in disguise; as they have never failed to show up and lift me up to higher grounds.

And for that reason, I am grateful to my critics and adversaries 
and hold them responsible for my achievements.

Now that I have reached a level of a fulfilling maturity in my work, this is what I am clearly conscious of: Every admirable quality and philosophy that I have observed in artists that I have studied, and everything I have observed in nature with curiosity and reverence with an earnest desire to recreate them subjectively, have been etched in my imagination and are now appearing on my canvases effortlessly and spontaneously; a new discovery that has made me to grasp the mystery of Creation. 

Iran Lawrence

 

The cause of all great human advancement is suffering.

Friedrich Nietzsche

1844-1900

German philosopher, cultural critic, an scholar in Latin and Greek, composer, poet, whose work has profoundly influenced the Western philosophy.

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