Monday, January 16, 2012

Excerpt from PETER HALLEY, UTOPIA'S DIAGRAMS by Arturo Schwarz

"...the whole development of Abstract Expressionism and perhaps American abstraction in general, was very much a phenomena that came out of the experience of Jews who had emigrated from Europe, particularly Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, and I'm very conscious of being part of that heritage" (Halley). Reverting to Barnett Newman, Halley also emphasized that when looking at Newman's paintings one experiences "a feeling of serenity or radiance", thus pinpointing a major concern of this artist's work which is also of central relevance in Jewish esoteric and secular literature: the quest for the sublime.

In a seminal text of the forties, Barnett Newman, who, according to Thomas B. Hess, was deeply affected by the Kabbalah, which played a central role in his life and art, wrote: The new painter "desires to transcend the plastic elements in art...His imagination is therefore attempting to dig into metaphysical secrets. To that extent his art is concerned with the sublime. It is a religious art which through symbols will catch the basic truth of life which is its sense of tragedy." And further more: "He is therefore not concerned with geometric forms per se but in creating forms which by their abstract nature carry some abstract intellectual content."

I have no doubt that Halley shares Newman's opinion that the artist "is therefore engaged in a true act of discovery in the creation of new forms and symbols that will have the living quality of creation...abstract art is not something to love for itself, but a language to be used to project important visual ideas."

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