Abstract Expressionism II

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I could not wait to get to Abstract Expressionism, New York on display at the MoMA to put my newfound fascination to use “in the field”.

I stopped at the top of the escalator (4th floor) one more time to pay homage to Wilfredo Lam. Of course I had seen, and drank this painting before, more than once, as I slinked by the ‘paintings’ floor to get to photography, or the café.

Lam’s The Jungle was as comfortable yet remarkable as my right hand. It was such a natural extension of my consciousness that I almost did not recognize it as an old painting, an entity separate and distinct from myself. It was completely familiar, the colours, the representations, the story told. African and Indigenous American masks, curvaceous disjointed bodies amongst sugarcane stalks, all carved into my memory and the collective memory of my region – the story of shattered existence, enslavement and colonization, the blood and sugar trade. This was simple enough for me to read, with less effort than breathing. Dominant greens as overpowering and enriching as the rainforest that still encroaches on settlements and towns throughout our islands, cooled and soothed my spirit, yet contained the mystery and depth of our folklore and buried histories. His style recalled the types of paintings, both sublime and ordinary that I grew up with constantly on the periphery of my cognizance.

I enjoyed the other offerings of the show, even when I did not want to. I took note of Lee Krasner’s ‘before’ and ‘after’ work, as I like to think of it – the work that she produced during her marriage to the tumultuous and all-absorbing Pollock, and the work she produced after his death. The two phases are comparable to a spring in two different states – one bound tightly, tension and compression are evident; the other when it is released, rebounding freely, stretching to its full length. So was her work Gaea, a piece which was created through broad, full strokes and is alive with luscious, feminine and earthy colours and filled with something I can only sense as a gloriousness. This was a prime example of an ‘after’ piece.

Pollock’s happy surprise for me was Echo no 25, a black on white masterwork of his ‘drip method’ that had turned the process on its head. Shimmering Substance emerged as the piece I would most like to own, to look at every single day.

Photography finally showed up featuring the likes of Aaron Siskind, Roy DeCarava, Minor White, Walter Chappell and Harry Callahan, amongst others. It was a rewarding trip.

 

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