Sunday, January 10, 2016

Inventing Abstraction - Week Five

For the fifth and final class of "Inventing Abstraction", instructor Jessica Houston introduced us to the work of three women artists from the early years of the twentieth century.

Vertical-Horizontal Composition, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, 1916
The first was Swiss-born Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943), a Dadaist, a Constructivist, and "considered to be one of the most important artists of geometric abstraction of the 20th century." The pan-European Dada movement arose from the chaos of the first World War, challenging the political system and the role of art. As part of her work with the Dadaists, Taeuber-Arp constructed marionettes and participated in dance, theatre and film. Much of her early work found expression in tapestry, clothing, costume and interior design.

Composition with Circles and Semi-Circles, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, 1935
Many of her paintings were inspired by the manipulation of a single shape, which might be cut into halves and quarters and painted in various colours and arrangements. Like many artists, she employed "variations within limitations" to explore her visual ideas.

Cut with the Kitchen Knife
 through the Beer-Belly of the Weimar Republic,
Hannah Höch, 1919

Hannah Höch (1889-1978) is considered to be one of the originators of photomontage. A German, the Nazis considered her to be a "degenerate", and her relationship with the Dadaists was uneasy because of her feminist leanings. Photomontage is a form of collage that plays with scale and shifting realities to make new visual statements, often subversive. For example, a central motif in the above image is a headless female dancer juggling an over-sized male head.
Sonia Delauney, coverlet, 1911
Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) was a Ukrainian-born French artist who, with her husband Robert, co-founded the Orphism movement. Her work in modern design included the concepts of geometric abstraction, and the integration of furniture, fabrics, wall coverings, and clothing. Referring to the patchwork blanket above, made for her infant son, she said, "When it was finished, the arrangement of the pieces of material seemed to me to evoke Cubist conceptions, and we then tried to apply the same process to other objects and paintings."

Sonia Delauney, Electric Prisms, 1914
She was influenced by the Impressionists and post-Impressionists in her use of complementaries to create simultaneous colour contrast.  You can observe some of this in the painting above, with the reds and greens, the blues and oranges, energizing each other. To me, some of the structure of this painting is reminiscent of the construction of a quilt, with small, rectangular units connected to make a larger composition.

Sonia Delaunay, Bal Bullier, 1914
Some of her paintings suggest the influence of Kandinsky and Klee.

After viewing and discussing many images from these three artists, our assignment was to take a cue from one of the artists and further develop some of the imagery we produced in earlier classes. Some shells were provided for those who wished to play with positive and negative like Taeuber-Arp, repeating a single shape. Another option was to make a photomontage using images found in magazines, inspired by Hannah Höch. Some of us chose to work with cut-out shapes and colour contrast, à la Delaunay.
Week 3
Week 3

I chose to extend an idea I began in Week Three. I used black construction paper shapes glued onto mottled, neutral backgrounds, exploring the relationships between the pebble-like shapes.

Week 5 
Week 5
Week 5
Week 5
Week 5
I found this excellent five-week class has inspired me to play with new imagery, and to consider how some of these visual ideas could be expressed in cloth and stitch.


Maggi said...

It will be interesting to see if this class has any influence on your work.

I like the new blog format by the way as it's much easier to access and comment upon.

Heather Dubreuil said...

Thanks for the input, Maggi. The Mosaic format was fun, with its patchwork index, but it was misbehaving, and blocking the latter part of the posts.

kay said...

Thanks for sharing these classes, and for including the great visuals! I learn so much from your blog. And I agree that the new format is better behaved.

Heather Dubreuil said...

I appreciate the comment, Kay. Actually, I will be taking another class with Jane Davies, beginning mid-February, and look forward to sharing the experience on the blog.