Can art be of importance without meaning? Must “good” art convey the zeitgeist of the times in which it was created? Does “depth of meaning” correlate directly to “goodness” of art? A definition of terms here would be of value but the terms in question are so based on individual and subjective opinion that the defintions would be questioned. Abstract painting, particularly the nonobjective painting of many artists since the 1940s is arguably devoid of meaning. In fact many artists want it that way. They prefer to see purely compositional factors, the tenets of design as the measure of their works. Abstract paintings can do two things. Just as Kurt Schwitters paper snips transcend the craft of hobbyists cutting paper, and Joseph Cornell’s boxes transcend the craft of cabinet makers or box designers – so can an abstract paintings transcend design. The criteria of meaning needs some discussion in my opinion.
Art Without Meaning
The “meanings” that some narrow-sighted critics refer to as being the paramount criterion of “high art” revolve around historic, philosophic, and religious dimensions. These meanings purportedly reflect the highest ideals and aspirations of man and god(God?). I appreciate meanings as much as the next person. I like the classical, epic struggles of mythology, the ancient renditions of the history of the world, the religious icons of every century, the struggles of mankind and every individual in mankind. These are wonderful meanings and certainly worthy of artistic depiction. Now consider the meaning of a man/woman who struggles to create pure beauty. These individuals not only attempt real, although only mortal, creation at its highest level – they do so in a unique and hardwon individual style. In addition, their work is meant to free, enhance and amplify your perception of art and beauty in all of its mysterious manifestations. That “is” meaning. You can witness this meaning in its visual record of each abstract painting. No, not every painting is a masterpiece – and it can’t fall back on cliche’ or a social nomenclature. It stands as a testament to a real struggle to push something to the highest level of art with no help from all the other “manifold meaning packages” that were the reason for art in previous centuries.
In this second part of a look at the work of key abstract expressionist Theodoros Stamos (1922-1997), the works shown below date from the mid 1960s onwards. Stamos travelled widely during much of his adult life. These trips both contributed to his aesthetic development and also provided fodder for his broad, deep intellectual interest in the world’s belief systems. Beginning in 1962, he created several long series of paintings; many of these contained sub-series. The Sun-Box series, begun in 1962, explored hard-edged geometries on flat grounds. After 1971, all of his paintings were part of the Infinity Field series. These abstractions are characterized by broad areas of colour delineated by slim lines or shape. Among the Infinity Fields are the Lefkada sub-series, inspired by the Greek island where Stamos spent much of his time from 1970 until his death. I think the influence of the ‘colour field’ works of his friend Mark Rothko is evident in these works. He taught at Black Mountain College from 1950 until 1954 and from 1955 to 1975 he taught at the Art Students League of New York and the Cummington School of Fine Arts. Stamos was also a member of the Uptown Group. A year before his death he donated 43 of his works to the National Gallery of Greece. He died in 1999 and is buried in Lefkas, Greece.
There was a time in my life where drawing pirates was a more central part of my day-to-day activities. Here is a sampling of a couple of skeletal pirates along with a piratey monkey character from those richly rewarding days. They are original sketches on separate sheets but framed together at 18 X 22 inches. Late last year a hugely talented colleague of ours, Jamie Baker, had the poor luck to suffer a stroke a few weeks before his company health insurance kicked in, and is facing huge medical bills. The proceeds of this auction will help him pay down that debt and continue his promising recovery. If you’re a fan of any of my old pirate or monkey-related art or know some who is, please bid or pass along word of the auction. But, good cause or not, go browse around, as there are dozens of rare and beautiful works by many well-known animation industry artists.