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Izaya Abdurakhmanov

My experience at the Museum of Modern Art’s gallery talk on abstract expressionism in New York was a mixture of both dissatisfaction and enjoyment. The guide of my group was Deborah Goldberg. She seemed very knowledgeable about the subject and gave lots of information/ background on each of the painters as well as the abstract expressionist movement itself. I learned how the movement began after World War II and that it represented change, rebellion, and desire to start anew. Abstract expressionism was influenced by surrealism, which was a previous movement involving unexpected and surprising art.

When we started looking at Barnett Newman’s work, any respect I had for this type of art quickly diminished. When I saw the first painting I could not hold in my thoughts so I said out loud, “ What the #$/*?! This is art?” and I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought this since a woman next to me laughed. I was completely flabbergasted by how a line through a colored background could be called art. When I thought I’d seen it all, I saw a long, thin line in the middle of the wall. It was like the line going through the background of the previous painting, only Newman took that line and made it the only part of the painting. That line looked like something I would use to line the corners of my walls. I guess what I’m trying to say is that paintings that could easily be done or thought of by a non-artist, in my opinion, are not worthy of being called art.

All hope was not lost however, as Jackson Pollock’s work came next. The respect I lost in the previous room slowly started coming back. What I really liked were his drip paintings because a lot more work was put into them than could visibly be seen in Newman’s work. His work would definitely be something I would like hanging on my wall or at least on the floor as a carpet. In addition to his drip paintings, I liked his painting titled “The Flame” because I’ve never seen fire drawn in such an abstract way before. The figure of the flame was white and the surrounding of the figure had tiny red flames, which was the opposite of what you would expect from normal painting of a flame. It was abstract enough to not look like fire but at the same time you could still tell that it is fire.

The last artist’s work we saw was Mark Rothko. His work was just colors layered on top of one another, which made me lose respect again. It was still better than Newman’s work but still not very difficult to do. What was interesting about these paintings was that they reminded me more of science than art. The paintings with colors layered on top of each other reminded me of gel electrophoresis, which is a technique used to separate DNA fragments. Each color looked like a DNA fragment after separation. There were also two other paintings, which reminded me of a plant cell and an animal cell.

My favorite painting, or the painting that spoke out to me the most was “Desert” by Richard Pousette-Dart. The painting is so wacky with so many things going on at once. At first look, it looks like an eye but at a colder look, there are so many geometrical shapes like triangles, circles, squares as well as squiggly lines all with different colors. However, all of these colorful shapes are on the background of a desert like color, which would explain the title. I guess what this means to me is that the center piece represents creativity and liveliness but since it is in a desert, there is no one to reach out to and so it remains in isolation. Perhaps it could symbolize the abstract expressionist movement itself, in that the centerpiece represents the colorful and lively movement, but the desert its in represents society.

So overall, I disliked some of the paintings with a passion but I did enjoy quite a few as well. Thus, abstract art is still something I would like to see occasionally.

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