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Color in Modernism
De Kooning once described art history as being like a bowl of soup. You stick your hand in it and find something for yourself. Modernism succeeded Classical painting. The classic 'Old Masters' were painters who regarded the physical limitations of painting, as wholly negative. Old Master painters attempted to conceal the flat surface, the support shape and the variations of pigmentation. However, the challenge to compete with the newly invented field of photography after its advent in 1839, caused painters to recalibrate; to seek a means of expression beyond the limitations of the camera. The 'limitations,' once regarded as detrimental, came to express themselves under modernist practice as openly positive identifiers of the medium. As such, flatness, literal shape and color became primary, representative, and 'pure' qualities of the emerging modernist aesthetic. The modernist's aesthetic inclination was to withdraw from representing reality, "in favor of an increasing preoccupation with the problems intrinsic to painting itself. Problems of color and form became the tools of the modernist. Exhibited are photographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn and F Holland Day from 1907 - 1910 and paintings from 1912 - 1920 of early Modernists Morgan Russell, Arthur B Carles, Arthur Dove, Joseph Stella and Oscar Bluemner. A beautiful surprise is the 1912 landscape by John Singer Sargent, similar in expression to the watercolors from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts shown at the Brooklyn museum this past spring. Experimentation continued and artists of the 1930's are represented in the works of Man Ray, Arshile Gorky and Milton Avery. Further experimentation led to the latest work in the exhibition - a heroic, large scale Helen Frankenthaler. All will agree that without the A. B. Carles' synchronist torso 1912, the Helen Frankenthaler 1984, would not have come into being.
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