Saturday, May 22, 2010

Today's Kandinsky

In today's computer generated world, I wanted to see what could be created by starting out with a Kandinsky and moving it forward as the source of inspiration. Where could it go, and what would it look like if a Kandinsky itself was the basic beginning model for a work of Digital Art. Taking all of Kandinsky's knowledge, wisdom, composition and color sense, where could it all lead up to?

In the Digital Age, the eloquent word of "appropriation" is used. In music it would be "sampling." Starting with a source and "re-purposing" the initial creation. In our legal world of "intellectual property" the creation has to be removed several times from its originality. Forgetting all legal mumbo-jumbo, and getting to the final result, we see how no matter how we try to distort, abstract and enhance, Kandinsky's influence is ever present. Perhaps in some way, we want it there. We read reviews of artists all the time stating that the work "resembles, or influences." We draw analogies to fit artists of merit to those that wish to be there. Good name recognition gives hope. But in the end, we go back to Gauguin, "Is it new or is it plagurism?"
In this case, I will let you decide.

The Multiple

We all associate the multiple image, the repeating pattern with Warhol. But is that really where it started? We take a look at Kandinsky's Concentric Circle and we see the contemporary image being repeated, stepped, and altered. Few really think of Kandinsky for repeating anything because his palette was so complex. Each image a symphony. However when we compare Kandinsky's Circles to Warhol's Marilyn's we see a very similar occurence. Can Kandinsky be responsible for every single work of modern and contemporary art. - One has to actually stop and wonder.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Title Fight

In this corner Kandinsky (1866-1944) - vs. Motherwell (1915-1991)

GAME OVER. - Kandinsky Wins by a Technical Knock Out.
Why paint the same picture as Kandinsky in 1957? None of this
makes any sense.

Is Everyone Kandinsky?

I had no idea starting out where this would all lead. I did know that I loved Kandinsky's work from the time I was a very young artist. There was just something so lyrical (I keep going back to the same words) but it is true. It speaks to the inner child, and if you were a child at the time, it spoke directly to you. I was puzzled therefore how a major artist could be speaking directly to a little kid? It took a lifetime to realize that the genius of life is to never loose that youthful spirit.

In any case, in examination and discovery it was my intention to look at Kandinsky's work and draw some parallels in tools to how he worked. Never did it dawn on me to truly see the enormity of influence, Kandinsky had. (As in E - V - E - R - Y - O - N - E). While people salute Picasso for his genius you can see where Kandinsky's influence just permeated everyone. Its kind of funny actually when you see a painting of expressionists and say, "Why bother?" when you have Kandinsky. It is a poor regurgitation of the master. While copying is a form of flattery, where is the imagination and originality? By this time, its starting to get annoying to discover that the new idea of brilliance started with one man.

For this exercise I discovered a painting by Clyfford Still that is in the Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo New York. I took a Kandinsky, cut the painting and turned it into black and white. I subsitituted some of the white area for the same color as Still and added just a few white gestures. - "Voila once again....." No originality.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Presto-Change-o instant Jackson Pollock

If you have ever been to Paris and gone to many of the famous museums, you surely have seen painters standing outside with easels copied almost exactly some of the most famous works to mankind. For a few dollars they will reproduce any painting imaginable. (Mostly the famous ones though).

In this instance, it is not a matter of forgery, but it is a matter of understanding that with a few movements of the computer keystrokes you can change a Wassily Kandinsky into a Jackson Pollock. The question beckons the viewer: Did Pollock copy Kandinsky? It surely looks that way.
Take any color Kandinsky, reduce it to black and white, then add a little bit of color and "voila,"
you have a Pollock!

Its beginning to become apparent that Kandinsky influenced just about every single artist that came after him, along with his colleagues. He bred new influence of creativity into the world.
While I don't take credit for every artist on the planet today doing what I started 35 years ago, it sure looks like the entire world went digital!

Observe the Original Kandinsky, then its rotation horizontally reduced to black and white. Then slight color added. Notice the close comparison to Jackson Pollock.

Watercolor Delight

Kandinsky's magical works involve a soft background of color which seems to be a repetitive theme and technique. Brilliant because he adds strong lines on top and directors the viewers eye with his dominant sense of color. His paintings are truly orchestral. He leads with a wave of his hand and your eye moves with his gestures.

The computer can imitate these watercolor backgrounds by having rims on the edge. The stronger and more frequent the brush is pressed down the deeper the color becomes. Like traditional media, the color below interacts with the color painted. Different colors have different reactions. Kandinsky surely would have used this technique to create his backgrounds. Let the foreground dance as it may.

3D - A New Frontier

This section should probably be talked about thirty pages into this BLOG. However, the frontier has opened. There is much to talk about and many areas to explore. Let's consider this a preliminary. First there is the shape creation. How big the form should be. What should the form look like? In the case of Kandinsky his paintings while very rigid in style were very loose and gestural as well. This is just another reason why we call him a genius. Most artists like Mondrian were strict. There lines were defined. Kandinsky was able to break all molds and bring in a playful presentation along with his lines that acted more like rhythm than anything else. Hence moving into the 3D world the forms have to compliment his sense of fluidity. Here then is a jump to another dimension which could not have been thought about at the time of his creations. The computer age has ushered in another dimension and thus another set of forms for the mind to ponder. How a shape is then wrapped, how its color falls, its resolution will also contribute to the final look of the form. - What happens next will be discussed later on down the line. For now, lets consider this a new discovery.


Movement. Can go horizontal, can go vertical. Four sections of the picture have been moved five times and then re-colored. The result are cubes that have their own vibration and repetitive sequences.

In the second image circles were made and replicated numerous times till they moved off the page. An image can go through a tremendous metamorphosis. One starts in one place and moves into another. A whole new subset of opportunities and creative decisions can be made. Artists in the past pursued only one path. Here many possibilities can be explored. Iterations can be saved and reworked, altered, changed, and reconfigured.

What is amazing about Kandinsky is the fact that he only had to strike it right once. He was so precise in his movements. We bow in amazement to his exact command.

In the third illustration you can see the screen display of repetitive layers, moving the circles repetitively approximately 11 times.

Kandinsky Moved

One important role of Russian constructivism was the cutting and pasting of objects juxtaposed. Kandinsky created his own cuts by making hard edged lines in strategic places. What the computer enables one to do is to move a picture: once, twice, thrice, quadruple till you run out room. In this case there is a Cubic sense. Here is an example of moving parts of Kandinsky four times.

Loved Twice

Its just incredible to truly study the work of Kandinsky. Every line, every circle is present for a reason. in this particular work, Kandinsky does take a grand look into the future. - "Space the final frontier." Robotics, planets, all included in this magnificent spacial work. However his glimpse and intuition shows a small piece of paper on the left hand side duplicating and attempting to copy his original. It may not be an exact duplication but a "painting within a painting." The attempt to break out of the typical dimensionality into something new. Its obvious he is looking to go beyond the four corners of the paper he is working on. Abstract faces looking back and the link to Cubism. This work has everything in it and has the omnipresence of its time. Heroic in nature Kandinsky paints a timeless work beckoning the future to enjoy once again.

As we fast forward approximately 90 years, we can now double the adventure. Kandinsky was never able to lie one image over another. The blending process was not possible, and if it was it had to be with tremendous difficulty. Today it is a matter of a few simple procedures. It opens the door to another horizon, and endless experiences. This might not be what Kandinsky had in mind but it surely allows new creators to challenge their decisions.

Rothko in an Instant

Genius is when an artist makes his mark and all the world pays tribute. If we were to all go blind we would find refuse in Rothko. The world is a blur. It is just color fields that were once something grand. A magnificent Kandinsky reduced to a softened canvas of color is then a Rothko. In this way, it is never bad. It is almost what we all consider heaven to be. A tranquil place after a tumultuous life. That is Rothko. It only makes sense that they made a temple for him in Texas. A meditational place where we can all appreciate his work. Alas we must take that peaceful moment and look to our inner core. When you will understand Rothko's work. I continuously say that "Artists are the Shamans" of our civilization. We are silenced by media and big business. You aren't supposed to have these quiet moments but to continue to be the populace forging ahead in consumerism. Rothko tells us otherwise. Kandinsky says, "revel in happiness."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kandinsky and Reality

Photography was invented shortly before the birth of Kandinsky. In today's world a baby is born and a digital photo is captured. It is put on the internet and within minutes the whole world is informed over a new birth. What would Kandinsky's work have looked like if he incorporated photography? We know it wasn't his aesthetic choice, but what if it was? What would it look like? We can get a glimpse of photography included in Russian art by appreciating the works of Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky. Intuitively I completely understand that my heritage back to Russia has a direct/connect to my own collages reminiscent to these artists. More contemporary was Rauschenberg's brilliant incorporation of photo images into art. It is all how you blend the work and completely engage the viewer. Of course in the early days of Rodchenko (1920's) it was all cut and paste. Using today's computer technology the ability to place photos into works of art is just a matter of ease of use. Today's way of working would be much different than that of past. We look to these innovative artists to express the way it would look had Kandinsky used the photographic image.

Kandinsky Expanded

We take our new computer tools for granted these days. They just appear. They are always there. We can do anything. At one point they didn't exist and all we could do is what our mind could conceive. Today our mind doesn't have to do any of the thinking. - Thats only half true. You would have to have the mental dexterity to be able to do certain things and understand what the computer can and cannot do. Naturally the more you know, the more possibilities are open to you. In essence that means you have to know how to use certain image creation and manipulation programs. You have to know what you are capable of doing. Still and have to make creative decisions. Only an artist can do that. You have to know what looks good, and what doesn't. What pleases the eye and what repels. Can you draw interest, or are you doing what the common person can do? What makes your work so special? These are all questions a artist of today has to ask themselves. We all know the quote of Paul Gauguin: "Art is either plagiarism or it is revolution." - No truer words have been echoed. So with everyone having access to digital tools, "What are you doing with them?" Is it ground breaking or is it self indulgence? We can be assured in the case of Kandinsky, there was no copying or replication from anyone. He was guided by his own truths and discoveries.

Kandinsky Color Change

Kandinsky's use of color, his choices and decisions were very structured. He made sure to have the view move their eye around. Colors in a very specific place. Why there is freedom, there is always structure in his work. Again the Computer Age has given us an infinite amount of choice for the artist to use. Is it better? It all depends on the content of course. For certain artists the Computer would have been an interesting tool. Perhaps for Jackson Pollock to witness his drip paintings in different ways. There is something visceral to paint as opposed to the digital genre. Hence there has to be something more we can get out of machines. This process will happen over time. For now I am exploring and investigating the "underneath" layer of Kandinsky. I am enjoying the discovery of the rhythm of his mind''s eye.

Kandinsky Pixelized Patterned

One thing certainly that the Computer Age brought about is the ability to be repetitive. We as humans like to repeat things that we like. Whether it is going back to our favorite restaurant, taking the same trail when we walk, using the same amount of creamer in our coffee, we love to repeat ourselves. Warhol of course with his Marilyn and Mao Series brought the prominence of repetitiveness to our consciousness. We definitely enjoyed seeing the evolution and changes. But more importantly we reveled in the ongoingness of the work. His exhibition of soup cans and cow prints over and over and over again was something that we took real joy in. Its hard to say why this is, other than "we like it." I could spend the rest of my life repeating the pixelized Kandinsky patterns.

Kandinsky Pixelized

The first thing I wanted to do is to comprehend the use of color by Kandinsky. What where his favorite colors? Naturally they varied from picture to picture. Its interesting to see how the eye travels and the color masses that occur. What I find more fascinating though, is that in the Computer Age one can take an image and do so much more with it. We were so limited in our potentials up until now. "Limited" is an interesting term in the discussion of Kandinsky. Without his genius there would be no art like it at all. How many artists copied Kandinsky since? - The answer is "All of them." From DeKooning to Paul Jenkins to Motherwell. Mediums, techniques, approaches might all be different, but there is a Kandinsky in all of us. Now to uncover what else is possible.

Getting Started

The good news has arrived. I have been asked to create a New Digital Media time-based work for the Kandinsky Prize in Russia. The Awards Ceremony takes place in Moscow on December 9, 2010. This blog will be the start of the entire journey. I will study the works of Kandinsky, and see how the process begins.

I can say that at the age of 9, my mother took me to the Guggenheim Museum to look at the works of Klee, Miro, and Kandinsky. I was always fascinated why art that looked so childish was in a museum. I thought I could do similar work. I even told my mother that. She wacked me on top of my head. It took a lifetime to prove it to her. It also took half a lifetime to understand the great works of these masters. Why simplicity is so important, and how hard it is to be simple. And when one thinks something is simple, it really is complex.

I could use this space and time to pontificate over the work of Kandinsky but that is completely unnecessary. We all know his genius. His lyrical voice of expression. The happiness that emanates out of each work. The art stands on its own. Does not need an explanation or deep thought, though the work is rather complex. My goal is to get into into the mind of Kandinsky and go off into my own journey. To learn from his works. To make new discoveries. To see and experience a new dimension of myself through the process.

This blog shall mark the journey.