"It's one thing to stand by and admire the work of other people-
the moment that I recognize the greatness of those things, it is unacceptable for me to not also try to match the sophistication and complexity and the appeal of those works..."
-Kerry James Marshall
If you're going to perform, perform well.
In an effort to 'decolonize' university studies, supplemental information has been provided in tandem to our main texts. While learning about the important roles of artists and their invested politics in modernism, we take a peripheral look at Rothko, Pollock and Wols.
What I have come to understand about Abstract Expressionism can be paraphrased: works "signified the end of all state capitalism and totalitarianism. Ironically, those that were able to invest and interpret the works tended to be upholders of state power." I find that during this time period, the paintings created paralleled with creating for arts sake, but also socially and politically investing yourself to create an antithesis visually. On these visual terms, artists abandoned figures and focused more so on the process of creating and translating the feelings they held perhaps socially and politically.
When I think of Abstract Expressionism, although I know that artists that were Black created work that aligned with the time period, they were (and are) omitted from texts. This is where the supplemental PDF's come in for readings. There is this bitter sweet feeling in knowing that while practicing the decolonization of the curriculum, there is still this feeling of retribution by including artists like Frank Bowling peripheral to our Euro-centric studies.
I find myself enthused by the inclusion of Frank Bowling supplementally, but also frustrated with his inclusion by way of being elided intentionally. While reading "After Modern Art," by David Hopkins, within the first 20 pages, there was ample space and time to mention Bowling centrally; at the mention of Wol's painting on a map of Manhattan Island, in reference to Pollock and his drip method, and also in the head nod to the avant-garde artists like Rothko. Readings 'provided in addition to,' prove to perpetuate, on a micro level the narratives of being an afterthought to an entire historical timeline of the arts.
So, centrally, I share with you Frank Bowling- a Guyana born, British artist. When you mention the time period of which Abstract Expressionism was at its' height, Frank Bowling must be mentioned as he spent over six decades studying color and geometric forms alongside texture.
There is nothing retrospective about intentionally including artists that are Black throughout American and Western History. History is a broad umbrella in which encompasses all tales- otherwise, quite frankly its simply propagated information: propaganda. This is a reminder that we exist in all timelines.
Hopkins, D. (2018). The Politics of Modernism. In After modern art 1945-2017 (pp. 1-19). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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