Modern Art

All posts tagged Modern Art

Art of Perceptual Experience: Pure Abstraction and Ecstatic Minimalism

by Alexandra_Munroe on April 4, 2009

Originally published in The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989. © 2009 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Used by permission.


From 1961 until his death in 1967, Ad Reinhardt exclusively painted black square canvases measuring five by five feet, each with subtle attenuations of dark tones and a vaguely discernable cross structure trisecting the powdery-dry, matte surface into nine symmetrical squares (Abstract Painting, plate 127). This series coincided with his 1961 trip to Syria, Jordan, and Turkey to study Islamic architecture and decoration, whose repetitive, geometric, symmetrical, and aniconic sacred forms (“imageless icons”) held intense interest for him. In 1962, he wrote to his friend, the Trappist monk and interfaith theologian Thomas Merton, that he had become a “white Muslim,” able to “find [himself] among anti-imagists, anti-idolatrists, pro-iconoclasts, and nonobjectivists.”[1] Reinhardt based his repetitive, prescribed craft, which culminated in his black paintings, on the ritualized and diagrammatic approach to object-making in Islamic as well as Asian cultures. In language that echoes his reverent descriptions of Buddhist sculptures, Tantric mandalas, and Chinese landscape paintings, Reinhardt declared his black paintings to be “pure, abstract, non-objective, timeless, spaceless, changeless, relationless, disinterested painting … object[s] that [are] self-conscious (no unconsciousness), ideal, transcendent, aware of nothing but Art (absolutely no anti-art).”[2] For the 1966 retrospective of his work at the Jewish Museum, he wrote that these works are “a logical development of personal art history and the historic traditions of Eastern and Western pure painting.”[3]

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Alexandra_MunroeArt of Perceptual Experience: Pure Abstraction and Ecstatic Minimalism

Cai Guo Qiang: I Want to Believe

by Alexandra_Munroe on June 10, 2008

Originally published in Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe. © 2008 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Used by permission.


Artists have a way of filling their work spaces with images and artifacts that have talismanic power, and Cai Guo-Qiang is no exception. A Chinese stone lion guards the entrance way to his large, garden studio in Manhattan’s East Village. A full-page newspaper advertisement reproducing a majestic El Greco painting is taped to a door, and a multipanel gunpowder drawing of an eagle with wings fully spread – Cai’s Man, Eagle, and Eye in the Sky: The Age of the Eagle (2004, fig. 80) – occupies a place of honor, watching over and blessing the studio’s activities. The most unexpected and arresting icon, however, is a poster depicting a UFO hovering in the sky above a bucolic landscape printed over with the words “I Want To Believe.”

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Alexandra_MunroeCai Guo Qiang: I Want to Believe

Spirit of YES: The Art and Life of Yoko Ono

by Alexandra_Munroe on May 11, 2000

 Originally published in YES YOKO ONO. Reproduced by permission of the publisher.


Yoko Ono. What comes to mind?

Extremes of opinion have shaped the public’s idea of Yoko Ono since she first emerged in the New York art world in the early 1960s. While her work has often confounded critics, her faith in the power of art to open and uplift the mind has touched millions. As an artist, poet, and composer working alternatively at the fringe and mainstream of culture, she has irked those who resist boundary-crossing. Yet she emerges, over and over, as a forerunner of new art forms that mix and expand different media. Her work as an antiwar activist, like the global ads for peace that she orchestrated with her husband, John Lennon, have offered a kind of public instruction that carries a profoundly positive and transformative message: Imagine.

For decades, people around the world have celebrated her meaning while critics looked on, perplexed.

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Alexandra_MunroeSpirit of YES: The Art and Life of Yoko Ono