It Was Good — Four
Abstraction, Collaboration, Essence.
Chapter No. 17 & 18
Guggenheim Museum, New York.
ON THE ABSTRACT
I believe the abstract to be of utmost importance in one's life. I’m not saying realism shouldn’t be present -- but rather a certain ultimatum is placed upon an abstract artist. While I see there is much truth in realism, abstraction goes beyond truth. Abstraction shows us beauty in the form of essence, a step in the direction of understanding what is beyond our comprehension. Makoto Fujimura shares his thoughts on page 300 of 'It Is Good' in regards to abstraction :
I see abstraction as a potential language to speak to today’s world about the hope of things to come. I believe that in many ways, spiritual qualities and ideas can be more readily accessible in abstraction than they would in representational art, where renderings of familiar things often carry with them conceptual baggage. This baggage can mislead or even prohibit the viewer from moving further up and further into the spiritual to which the artwork points.
While Fujimura is predominantly talking about abstraction in relation to the divine, there’s also something to be said about the emotional response to abstract works. An emotional response, a response that stretches further than just what meets the eye. The relationship between abstraction & realism is what I will be exploring in this post … a concept that will continue to be unanswered, but one I hope to explore for seasons to come.
Untitled, Agnes Martin.
Agnes Martin has been a name I’ve heard for quite a while, but have yet to fully research until now. What peaked my interest in Martin’s work was a recent collection by COS Stores. The collection, while beautiful & thought provoking in and of itself, got me thinking about the act of collaboration on a larger scale. What does it look like to take an artist as inspiration for a clothing collection? A quote from Chapter 17 stuck out to me while pondering this theory:
Collaboration calls us out of ourselves and into community. The artist is no longer a specially gifted loner, making art in a large white room, free of distraction. Instead, art-making is shared by the artist and the community, giving the community the tools to share in the artist’s experience.
As an influential painter helping start both the Abstract Expressionist and Minimalist movements, Martin was transfixed with the philosophy of beauty & emotion. Her work, while extremely simple, speaks for itself — it evokes emotion in relation to color palette and size reflecting themes of beauty, love, and innocence. Martin passed away in 2004, but remains an influential artist especially for our generation. A resurfacing of the minimalist movement is currently in place -- with artists looking towards Martin for inspiration. Below are a variety of quotes I transcribed from a podcast by The Guggenheim. I highly recommend, if you have the time, to sit still in a sun lit room & listen to her poetic dialogue.
In order to have an experience, you simply have to clear your mind so it can get through.
Anger, I consider to be an exhaustible. Seeing beauty is exhaustible. The eye is exhaustible. The inexhaustibles are in the mind. The beauty you see in the mind never wears out.
Beauty is the mystery of life. The response to beauty is emotion. Emotions in which we are often not aware. Beauty is very much broader than the eye, it is out whole positive response to life. The artist is fortunate in that his work is the inner contemplation of beauty — of perfection and life.
By questioning your mind, it is absolutely possible to have original thoughts. It is important to be alone in order to visualize your own work. You must have complete independence of mind.
There’s no indication or hint of the material world in my paintings. I don’t paint about the world, everybody else paints about the world. I am simply painting concrete representations of abstract emotion such as innocent love or near happiness. I do want an emotional response. I paint about emotions, not about lines.
I live in an even keel — I don’t go down, I don’t go up.
Agnes Martin Exhibit, Guggenheim New York.
This past October, COS Stores did a 'collaboration' of sorts with Agnes Martin. Rather than a direct collaboration, it was one to honor Martin in conjunction with the opening of her exhibit at The Guggenheim New York. COS Stores has been a favourite of mine for a while now -- they are indeed a retailer, but with a huge focus in the arts. While having a very distinct style, COS often collaborates with artists around the world creating collections & experiences. What I admire about COS is the fact that the company focuses on craft & quality, providing an simplistic abstract wardrobe, and most importantly are active engagers in the broader art community. I encourage you to check them out here.
This particular collaboration of COS Stores caught my attention because it is multi-layered. First, the act of transcribing Martin’s works onto pieces of clothing in itself is a collaboration. Second, the collaboration of emotion vs. representation. And third, the collaboration of space & tactile in respect to the Guggenheim which is an abstract space in it’s own right. Included below is a video narrated by COS’s creative director as well as a few pieces from the collection. In my pursuit of exploring the abstract, the COS x Agnes Martin collection is, I believe, a perfect example of the meshing between abstraction and realism.