Clyfford Still -Griffin Beste

Griffin Beste

ARTH 3539

28 Jan 2012

Clyfford Still Paper

   THE MAIN PAPER IS THE DOCX ONE ATTACHED. It includes images and Correct formatting

Stills Paper Griffin Beste

Whenever a famous artist comes to mind I always start my thought process with a feeling of automatic greatness and an element of exoticism. When I discovered that Still was from Grandin, North Dakota I was shocked that his life could have started in such a barren area of the United States.  I can imagine North Dakota and other areas like Alberta, Canada and Spokane, Washington being void of “artistic” influence. In Stills early work like in this picture below called Ph-782 that was made in 1927, the evidence of his childhood ranch life are reflected in the subject matter of the piece.  The foreground is void of detail but the variations Still uses indicate a field of wheat and dirt. The landscape shows no trees or other objects of interest besides the factory in the background. His use of color accentuates the factory giving a representation of an American depression-era daily life. This image was one of the smaller paintings in the museum but, it was definitely just as impressive.

Some other pieces I witnessed at the museum painted around the same time were the two I posted directly below, both images display the same idea of a Depression-era United States and the hardships faced by the people. These paintings are important to witness the change in Still’s early work and span into his later abstract expressionist work.

I have to admit that when I was walking through the museum the most impressive thing that I noticed was the absolute size of the paintings, most of the works being full 8+ feet paintings, which was incredible to see as an initial impression. When walking in the museum there is a timeline that is semi structured. Still’s earlier work is presented in the opening of the museum and the work progresses in time. In the middle of the museum there is a collection of Still’s drawings that displayed an interesting abstract or an expressionistic style applied to portraits of people.

This picture was one of the drawings that were in the section I was describing. It was the first exposure I had to this strange alien like drawings. At first I didn’t understand what the drawings meant, or why he would draw people like this.  I understand now that he wanted to portray the “real” emotion of the people, and since this drawing took place in the Great Depression the people’s faces were seen as long, despondent, and void of the very aspect that makes us human, “life”.

Soon after Still depicted the images of people in the expressionistic way he was for a while, his artistic portrayal of people went away from a human-like approach and moved into more vertical elements, or objects that look like bone fragments instead of a concrete identifiable human forms.

After Thursday’s class I realized how much I enjoy Clyfford Still’s work, but not until after I learned what abstract expressionism was did I even remotely enjoy what I saw. Regardless of my understanding of the art style I still was really compelled by this one massive painting that took place during the period of his first abstractions. PH-235, 1944.

             This painting isn’t given justice in this small-scale rendition from my camera; the long dramatic red lines that drag forever across the painting made me feel anguish and pain surrounding the time this painting was completed. The strategically placed yellow lightning bolt looking stroke gives the painting an energy and the white stroke made me feel some kind hope, or goodness coming through the darkness surrounding it.  The museums’ description next to the image affirmed my thoughts about this piece being important to Still’s work and the following work in the Abstract Expressionist movement.

The Museums description of the work stated that,

“This painting, and a nearly identical version in the collection of the museum of Modern Art in New York, was made near the end of World War II. Its dramatic image, gestural technique, flattened space, and monumental scales are all characteristics that will define American painting over the next decade”.

Another piece of work by Clyfford Stills shows the vertical movement of his paintings that seemed to present itself over and over again. One of the museum’s descriptions presented an interesting quote from Still’s himself that stated,

“My paintings have the rising forms of the vertical necessity of life dominating the horizon. For in such a land a man must stand upright, if he would live. And so born and became intrinsic this elemental characteristic of my life and work”.

The piece of work itself in which this quote is referring to is directly below, in which the painting starts near the edge of the canvas and the strokes move upward as sort of a lifeline. In the painting below there are some strange colorations that I didn’t see in many other of his works within the museum. There are the lifelines in which Still’s was talking about and then there is a splash of blue and green which to me didn’t feel like it fit into the overall scheme of the painting.  When viewing this painting I had a feeling of resurrection of new life. Green and blue are both colors of nature, like grass or trees growing and water, this is what I was thinking when I saw the splatters of blue and green in the figure on the right. These large figures in the left and right look ghoulish or un-natural, but almost human-like. They gave me a feeling of seedlings or the growth/rebirth of life.

I had a great time experiencing these works of art in person, and I felt like I was enriched with the experience from my visit. There was a large state of confusion the first go through but the second time I walked through the works and examined the paintings up close I truly started to experience the artist’s technique and had a deeper appreciation of the work. I didn’t understand what it was that I was looking at or what I was supposed to feel about the works. After lecture and reading and further research I did on my own I would recommend the museum to others and will return in the future to experience the amazing work again and again.

3 Responses

  1. A superb artistic analysis and historical profile of the artist and his work. You have an intuitive understanding of the the deep connection between the collective experiences of the artist’s life and the manner in which he progressively explicated these experiences and then transcended them in his artistic expression.
    annelysse eggold

  2. Griffin, While reading your paper a few things jumped out at me that I liked.It would seem that you truly experienced, appreciated and absorbed the majority of work. I enjoyed your description of PH-235. I also liked the infinite properties displayed by the lingering red line. I appreciate your display and incorporation of information obtained in the film and the readings. I remember the use of “bone fragments” in the instructional materials. I would not have identified this as a theme without the help of them, and found it to be interesting. Although there is much to rejoice about in the contents of these pages, I will humbly bring it to your attention that the proofreading of your paper was not done well. The grammar and structure of the composition suffers greatly and takes away from the intrinsic value of the piece as an analysis. I would also encourage you to provide less visual images and paint better pictures with your words. I feel that choice images may enhance a work, but the amount that you have provided creates a feeling of disjointedness. The use of images as quotes is something I would never do. Not only does it leave your visible post fragmented and hard to follow, but you chose to not use the quotes analytically and drew no strength from them to support your argument.

  3. Griffin,
    I like how you talked about your experience walking through the museum in your paper. This made your paper very personal, which is very rare for someone to do for a class assignment. I feel like I was right there as well, looking at Still’s work. This made it easy to read, which is nice. I also like how you put in pictures at the end of your paper. This also made it visual. Great job!

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