Clyfford Still Essay

Lindsey  Cannon

ARTH  3539

Clyfford  Still  Essay

January  30th,  2012

Abstract  expressionism  has  renovated  the  social  understanding  of  “acceptable”  art  in  the  twentieth  century.  It  was  an  act   of  urgency  from  the  horrific  results  of  the  postwar  of  World  War  II.  This  technical  style  embodied  surrealism  and  gave  birth  to  the  process  of  gesture  and  the  production  of  a  responsive  product  of  art.  One  iconic  figure  and  artist  known  during  this  time  was  Clyfford  Still. He  amplified  and  recreated  the  productinon of  canvas  and  figurative  ground  within his  workings  of  an  oil  medium.

Heroism  is  a  primitive  example  of  his  work  as  a  desecrate  individual  expressing  realization  of  western  culture  and  redefining  abstract  composition.  Placed  within  the  realm  of  Jackson  Pollock,  Mark  Rothko  and  Barnett  Newman  they  created  a  rebellious  unit  which  altered  the  definition  of  art,  enlightening  society  with  prominent  issues.   This  was  a  definitive  basis   for  our  society  to  reconnect  and  understand  one  another.  Born  within  seclusion  of  a  agricultural  upbringing  in  Grandin,  North  Dakota,  Still’s  ambition  was  to  evoke  a  grotesque  image  of  life.  This  process  was  expressed  through a  layered  timeline  of  agricultural  and  human  form.  The  city  of  Denver  was  fortunate  to  inherit  825  paintings  and  1575  works  on  paper  which  enabled  society  to  visually  acknowledge  his  work  as  a  form  altering  the  persona  of  “respectable”  art.  Still  wasn’t  recognized  for  his  talented  work  until  1947  when  he  began  presenting  his  view  toward  the  human  body  and  our  environment.

The  can  only  be  understood  when  you’re  able  to  actually  soak  within  his  workings,  visually  engaging  between  the  haggard  layers  of  paint  distributed  to  the  canvas  which  provides  a  sublime  acceptance  toward  the  non  objective.  This  museum  features  a  timeline  elaborating  toward  his  progression  as  an  artist.  Each  piece  distributes  a  cultural  understanding  of  a  social  disturbance.  His  central  emphasis  of  the  timeline  is   placed  within  each  one  of  his  paintings  through  compassionate  act  to  express  gestural  technique,  neglecting  a  visual  centerfold  of  background  and  foreground.  This  contingent  moment  revolved  around  his  sporadic  placement  of  oil  paints.  His  1957-D  No.  1  is  a  great  example  of  this  timeline,  through  the  embellishment  of  heavy  blacks,  yellows  and  whites  controlling  the  scenery,  through  a  layered  expanse  which  creates  a  linear  schedule  of  life.  This  traditional  method  is  recurrent  throughout  his  work,  conveying  an  individual  life  process  through  a  vibrant  color  pallet.

There  was  also  an  obsession  with  the  process of  expressing  the  horizontal  and  vertical  form.  This  is  continuously  repeated  with  Still’s  expansive  group  of  paintings,  which  defines  a  non – objective  idea  that  ultimately  cultivated  our  perception  of  the  simplistic  and  the  relative.  Another  example  of  Still’s  works  is  the PH – 929  black  and  white  image  that  was  made  in   1974.  This  painting  is  a  primitive  example  of  the  last  decade  which  this  artist  was  able  to   express  his  medium  as  an  abstract  expressionist.  This  painting recreates  a life  of  it’s  own  having  a  chaotic  environment  of  color  placement.  When  the  viewer  engages  with  each  piece  it  is  an  overwhelming  sense  of  empowerment  through  the  large  scale,  placing  the  figure  into  an  installation  of  havoc.  Still  is  understood  for  his  ability  to  apply  a  color  field  through  non – objective  form.

Still  was  praised  with  his  1979  exhibition  which  showed  a  collection  of  his  works  at  New  York’s  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art.  This  large  exhibition  displayed  Still’s  best  works  throughout  his  entire  carrier. Known  to  be  negligent  towards  the  world  of  distributing  his  art,  he  was  blessed  with  the  recognition  to  house  his  works  in  the  setting  of  this  competitive  realm  of  abstraction.  The  only  relative  figure  Still  paints  is  is  Self  Portrait  (PH 382)  in  1940.  This  young  composition  is  the  only  representative  image  of  the  artist  that  separates  from  his  other  works.   It  is  a  painting  that  provides  an  relative  environment  to  the  artist  with  the  background  of  a  blank  canvas.  Still’s  intense  expression  and  body  positioning  draws  the  view  into  the  painting  wanting  to  understand  his  motive  of  self  expression  within  this  piece.  This  is  probably  one  of  his  only  paintings  that  doesn’t  produce  an  over  exaggerated  form  of  the  body.  This  realistic  representation  defines  the  artist  and  his  own  expanse  of  canvas  and  medium.

This  artist  helped  contribute  and  reform  the  understanding  of  art  in  America.  He  distributed  his  talent  through  color  placement  and  truthful  recognition  of  prominent  issues  within  that  time  period.  His  painting  are  a  crucial  basis  for  contemporary  works,  defining  the  meaning  of  abstract  expressionism.  This  respected  artist  has  provided  a  line  placement  that  has  interacted  with  society,  providing  a  theme  of  landscape  and  gestural  position.  He  is  a  crucial  figure  that  has  recreated  the  process  of  application  through  source  of  media  and  the  external  appreciation  of  the  paintings  he  has  provided  to  society.

2 Responses

  1. Good work Lindsey. I appreciated your thoroughness and literary style although your last paragraph was scintillatingly labyrinthine, cognitively obfuscating and somehow reminded me of some lines from Shakespeare’s Tempest…something about ‘sound and fury’. Not a criticism but rather a question to all of us: Who are we to analyze the life and 40 years of artistic creativity of another man? Thank you for your time and effort in attempting such an Olympian feat.

  2. I really enjoyed this paper, and your insight into Clyfford Still’s work. Your vocabulary makes your argument more salient and impressive. It’s always a nice thing when you read a coherent and eloquent review of an exhibition. I had similar feelings about his work as you. Great review!

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