Abstract picture making, or the making of abstract paintings, is the highest level of freedom for the artist. The fact of the matter is that Abstraction frees the artist from having to represent anyone or anything, for any reason, from the political to the ego mania of portraiture. Abstraction is itself the site of freedom. The artist is free to explore every internal idea – whether it be the nature of existence itself, the meaning of life or merely the majesty of the infinite materiality of paint, as explored by artists as wide-ranging in painterly concerns as Jack Whitten, Amy Sillman, John McLaughlin and Gerhard Richter. It was none other than the United States of America’s government itself that both shadowed, foretold, broadcast and shipped out to the world Abstract Painting in America, in the form of Abstract Expressionism in New York in the post-war period. Abstraction was viewed as the visual equivalent of jazz, where there were no set rules, where free improvisation was the rule and never the exception. Jazz influenced Abstract Painting, from its fluidity of thought and language play, to its flights of genius in brushstrokes. Abstract Painting in the form of Abstract Expressionism recognized it would not want to compete with the direct bloodline of European painting history. So it took from painting and started a completely new road, one full of American flash and fire, with jazz in both the foreground and background, listened to live at night and in the studio by daylight. Abstract Expressionism removed itself from European easel painting, which had removed itself from painting for and in the church. So in a new land and with a new plan painting burst forth with a vibrancy and native intelligence and energy that has caused it to not only rise up, but also withstand the difficult hours when painting became to be viewed as a lessor form of analytical engagement. This lasted for a brief while in terms of the reality of the life of things. Now painting has been elevated as it again has large numbers of the most intellectually engaged artists working it the medium. Do not forget that paint today is by a creation of science, yet its materials come from the earth and allow both woman and man to create and recreate the world – in their own image, or in the case of Abstraction, in images that explore every available manner of thinking about reality and existence itself, by being both mirror and presenter of philosophical truths.
Los Angeles, California, May 20, 2012
Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles