Cubism, Fragmentation and Abstraction
The advent of abstraction did not happen over night. We can look at the whole of Europe and start in Russia with Wassily Kandinsky or we can feel the world coming apart in Francis and Spain. We can look at the science of light, optics and then we can smash it because it holds nothing for us as artists. He like many artist Kandinsky looked at children's art believing that they were the only true artists being unfettered by the world of art rules. The German Expressionist may have hit the target with color and brush work, attack the canvas, let your truth be real. Then there were the Dada and surrealist movements. Absurdness, sense verses non sense, who is man? where does he stand? reality verses the reality of dreams, what then is real is not what we see and not of this world?
Cezanne slays away in Provence France. Battling the canvas, battling with himself. "What is it I need to see before me", he must be asking? Finally he stumbles, falls, breaks maybe, into a simple pallet of color and what he sees as a painter, a painting. Broken up, but together. Short brush strokes that carve the space making it almost flat. It is a painting, an object after all. The new father of Modern art has broken the barriers down from Impressionism and Post Impressionism and Anything and everything that came before him. He would not know this though. But Picasso, Matisse, others knew what he had done. Cubism was about to be born.


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One of Kandinsky's first watercolor abstractions. Untitled, 1910

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Composition II, 1913
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Improvisation, 1912

Please know that many many artists experimented with abstracting besides the Cubist, like, the Surrealist Juan Miro, Futurists and Fauves like Franz Marc, and then there is the great Piet Mondrian. Franz Marc is considered by some to be a Cubist also.
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We can look at Matisse or Picasso, taking apart Impressionism and putting it back together. The were aided by the great European wars making havoc of their lives. Musicians, writers, and many others who could escaped to the United States.
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Guernica, Picasso
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An example of analytical cubism. Take it apart and put it back together. Rid it of emotion and charge it with logic? Abstraction, was a way of thinking , processing the world,making sense of the craziness of war and a unsure life. Then there was Cezanne. He held the message, the secret. He gave order to his world by breaking it up in to small strokes of color. This is what the Cubist would do, but they had to take it further. Destroy the image, break it up, see all of it at once, all sides and top and bottom. Read it like passing someone on the street. First impression, many ideas and thoughts. Who, what, when, where, why? Make the art an object on its own.
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Juan Gris, Still Life, an example of synthetic cubism. there's more color, has some amount of emotion and plastic space. It moves, it has some sense of depth, illusions.
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Marcel Duchamp was one of those artist. He tried everything and pushed the limits on it all. Below is an attempt at cubism. above is a more realized version, "Nude Descending a Staircase".
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Malevich - Cubo Futurism, Capturing movement and the mechanism of the new world, be it right or wrong.
read the article -
http://myweb.rollins.edu/aboguslawski/Ruspaint/cubofut.html
One important difference between abstraction and cubism was subject matter. Cubists tended to continually reference the person or objects. Abstraction tried hard to get away from representing any thing except what it was, a painting made by a painter.
We jump now to America, busy searching for American art. What would it look like? what would it represent? Would it be abstracted or representational or realistic. A few names come to mind two being Thomas Hart Benton and Stuart Davis. One a representational regionalist painter doing farm scenes and the other a follower of Cubism and much more out side the mainstream than Benton.

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This example of Stuart Davis shows his interest in a more modern America. An America on the highway, moving with advertisements and color that would soon litter the American landscape both artists loved. Not really analytical or synthetic , but rather a cross current of both with American style and bravado.
With the improvement of communications The art world opened up and New York became the center finally bypassing Paris. WW1 and WW 2 helped this as artists immigrated to AMerica, Many settling in New York or near by. Artists such as Piet Mondrian, Hans Hoffman, both teachers at heart . Especially Hoffman who open a The Hans Hoffman school of Art and worked with some of America's future greats, both abstract and realistic.
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de Kooning, Untitled, drawing
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De Kooning, Untitled, drawing 60's drawings

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1947 De Kooning, Orestes
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de Kooning, Attic 1949
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De Kooning, Excavation, 1950
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Detail from Excavation
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De Kooning, untitled, 1950

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De Kooning, Fire Island, mid to late 50's
The following are an example of how De Kooning's style and working habits changed and the changes came quick as competition amongst these artist was friendly but fierce. For our purposes, he began working in a predominate black and white palette. The paintings were large and these colors were cheaper and most likely house paint . The use of color was minimal. Many finished paintings have been painted over, another example of working out concepts as nothing was precious.
These were Abstract paintings. Not non objective. They came from the observation of the world and the fragmenting of that world and the reassembling of that world top make a painting that had never been seen before. They represented America of the 40's and 50's. I'll let you research what that may have been.

Below are David Hockney's Cubist Photo collages. They too are built off of the principles of cubism, fragmenting and reassembling.
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These were done with Polaroid cameras

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Are they analytical or synthetic?

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Image from Artslant.com, Pamlico Fragmentation #1, Oil, Alvin Stanley