Understanding Modernism|Legit essays

Posted: February 19th, 2023


In this first short writing assignment, need to choose two artists from the list below and write a brief description of each ONE of their artworks you have chosen and how it fits within the current learning unit. (Modernism)What commonalities or influences do you see?  You cannot pick the same artist more than once. Reference at least 3 artists form the reading.

Understanding Modernism: Readings/Viewings

Virginia Spivey, “Abstract Expressionism, an introduction” SmartHistoryLinks to an external site.  (required)Links to an external site.

Clement Greenberg, “Modernist Painting,” originally a Forum Lecture, 1960, revised for The New Art: A Critical Anthology, 1966Links to an external site.  Links to an external site.

Lee Krasner   Untitled 1949Links to an external site.

The Painting Techniques of Barnett Newman: Vir Heroicus Sublimis”Links to an external site.  (video, 3:49) (required)

Beth Harris and Steven Zucker, “Onement I, 1948” SmartHistoryLinks to an external site.  (video, 4:52) (required)

Fred Mogul, “Barnett Newman,” All Things Considered, NPR, July 1, 2002Links to an external site.  (audio, 7:59) (optional

Arthur Danto, “Barnett Newman and the Heroic Sublime,” The Nation, May 30, 2002Links to an external site.

Michael Kimmelman, “Willem de Kooning Dies at 92; Reshaped American Art,” The New York Times, March 20, 1997Links to an external site.  (optional)

Liane Hansen, “De Kooning: an American Master,” Weekend Edition, NPR, December 19, 2004Links to an external site.  (audio, 10:44) (optional)

Jackson Pollock.orgLinks to an external site.  (required)

SFMOMA videoLinks to an external site.  on Pollock’s techniques (3:45) (required)



Artworks covered:

· Andre Masson, Battle of the Fishes, 1926 (example of automatism)

· Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937 (important work for AbEx artists)

· Thomas Hart Benton, Arts of the West, 1932 (important work for AbEx artists)

· Willem De Kooning, Woman I, 1950-52

· Willem De Kooning, Excavation, 1950

· Jackson Pollock, Guardians of the Secret, 1943

· Jackson Pollock/Hans Namuth, Pollock at Work, 1950

· Jackson Pollock, Number 1, 1948

· Mark Rothko, Number 14, 1960

· Barnett Newman, Onement I, 1948

· Barnett Newman, Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1951-52



review the work of the artists below to find the one that bests fits within the themes (Abstraction, the body, pop culture, etc)

You will be graded upon how well the choice of an artwork you make corresponds to the ideas and artworks in the current unit, and how well you answer the questions below.

save your essay on your desktop before posting it. (if anything happens you will have a backup copy).

Word count is max 500 words for each artist. Please do not write more or less.




Then answer the following questions:

· How does this object show the influence of art we’ve studied in class?

· How does it depart from these earlier practices in either form or meaning?

· When/where was this object produced?

· How does it reflect (or not) its historical context?


1-Ann Hamilton / blue indigo art work

Originally conceived by the artist in 1991 as a site-specific installation for the Spoleto Festival held in Charleston, South Carolina, indigo blue was inspired by the region’s history of indigo production. Both a plant and a dye, indigo is inextricably bound to the South plantation economy.

Hamilton’s interest in the history of American labor was underlying motivation behind the creation of this work; she has cited Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” (1980)- an alternative history of the nation -as a particularly important source of inspiration. A person sitting at a desk  Description automatically generated with low confidence

Indigo blue with Hamilton’s attempt to unearth this history. The work is comprised of approximately 18,000 pieces of used, blue, cotton work clothes. The uniforms of anonymous blue-collar workers, whose names for the most part are lost from written histories.

In front of the platform stands a wood table and chair where a hired participant is seated, and erases passages of the book published by the Naval War College, title “International Law Situations”.

The performative actions of the body are essential aspect of Hamilton’s work, investing the piece with an action of authorship. This action in particular, speaks to how traces of the human body have the potential to participate in the rewriting of the different story.


2-Maya Lin wood art work




I have chosen to write about Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and how it fits within the current learning unit of Modernism. Guernica was painted in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, and it has become one of the most famous paintings of the 20th century. Picasso’s use of Cubism and Expressionism in the painting reflects the spirit of Modernism, which sought to break away from traditional styles of art and embrace new forms of expression.

In Guernica, Picasso uses his unique style to depict the horrors of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by German and Italian warplanes. The painting is filled with abstract images of broken bodies, anguished faces, and distorted animals, creating a chaotic and haunting effect. The use of monochromatic colors, such as black, white, and gray, further emphasizes the bleakness and tragedy of the scene.

Guernica’s impact on the Abstract Expressionist movement cannot be overstated. The painting’s powerful political message and use of abstraction to convey emotion and ideas had a profound influence on artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. The painting is a prime example of how Modernism sought to push the boundaries of art and use it as a tool for social and political commentary.

One commonality between Picasso’s Guernica and the works of Abstract Expressionist artists is the use of abstraction to convey emotion and ideas. Both Picasso and the AbEx artists sought to break away from traditional representational art and use abstraction to express their innermost feelings and ideas. Additionally, the use of large-scale canvases, bold brushstrokes, and experimentation with materials and techniques are all hallmarks of both Picasso’s work and that of the Abstract Expressionists.

In conclusion, Picasso’s Guernica is a powerful example of Modernist art, pushing the boundaries of traditional styles and using abstraction to convey a message of political and social commentary. Its influence on the Abstract Expressionist movement is evident in the use of abstraction, experimentation with materials, and large-scale canvases that define the movement.

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