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Coin d' Atelier

Updated: May 9

"There's no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards you can remove all traces of reality." Pablo Picasso

According to the Tate Museum (https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms), "abstract expressionism is the term applied to new forms of abstract art developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 1950s." They isolate two categories described as action and exemplified by such painters as Pollock and de Kooning, and contemplative or meditational associated with such painters as Mark Rothko. I believe that photography falls squarely in the second group because of the emphasis of the viewer's response instead of the artist's process. This particular photo is very reminiscent of Rothko's use of lines, geometry and color.


In the 1940s, Aaron Siskind began experimenting with creating abstract images with his camera. He focused on small sections of larger street elements such as wall graffiti, positioned them off-center in his view-finder, and thus invited whomever would view the final image to follow asymmetrical lines, white and gray (or color) tones, contrast of lighter tones to darker backgrounds, and any markings that might provide context or, conversely, intrude.


I had the pleasure of catching the Exhibition 2023: Van Gogh, The Final Journeys at the Château Auvers-sur-Oise on a recent visit to France. As we walked through the various rooms of the château given over for the exhibit, I caught this moment when the light came through a window onto the corner of a wall on which were displayed some of the Japanese prints that van Gogh used to decorate his own walls. He called them japonaiseries. The highlighted picture is one that he painted based on a print by the famous Utagawa Hiroshige. Are the colors in the squares of horizontal light part of the floor, or reflections from wall to the left?


Van Gogh's studios were typically sparse, these japonaiseries the only spot of color or delight aside from his own work into which he poured his last days of effort and vision and heart. If I had just one day with van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, this photo represents what I would imagine our shared studio would look like. The lines are mesmerizing, the colors disruptive; I hold my breath and wait for the light to shift.

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