The Visual Art "Intertextual" System, c.1950-c.1980


Importance of interpretive contexts:
Abstract Expression-Pop Art-Minimalism

The artworks produced from the post-World War II era through around 1980 form an inter-referential system based on the accrual of meaning and value, and a knowledge of the positions and relationships within the system.

Each genre, style, medium, and materials was presupposed in the making of the new work, and the new work was positioned to have meaning within the system.

It is important to see art works in a system of meaningful relationships, not as independent styles of types of visual content.

This means seeing works for what they are not doing--negating past ways of working--as well as what what new positive expressions are being made.

The naive concept of "influence" is inadequate for understanding the density or complexity of interdependent meaning in a cultural system.

What is always in play is a semiotic matrix, positions within a system that presuppose and cross-reference each other.

All three art movements of the 1950-1970s attempt to cancel the older, inherited "grand tradition" of European art (and prior American art based on European traditions) to clear the way for something modern, American, and a way of embodying a new concept or philosophy of art-making and even what art is or should be in the current moment.

Pop art assumes and negates both the inherited European system of High Art, the New York Abstract Expressionist movement and its corollary, Color Field Painting, and the emerging Minimalist movement.

The grand tradition of European high art and painterliness was a major "influence" on Pollock because he worked to cancel it with a new style and new philosophy of what art should be in America.

Pollock's work thus presupposes the history of painting to WWII, but it attempts to cancel its properties. So "influence" is mostly a useless term theoretically.

Pop and post-Pop art continues to intervene in the visual system, appropriating popular and commercial mass culture content, and compelling us to see and receive art objects, images, and materials in different, disruptive, ironic, and humorous ways.

Finding adequate theory: dialogism, intertextuality/intermediality, network theory

New works proceed in a dialogue with prior and contemporary work. The dialogue presupposes other statements or expressions, subsumes them, and advances the dialogue by adding interpretations, commentaries, responses to what has already been stated.

The artworks have no meaning outside the ongoing system of meaning which is like a matrix of relationships or network.

A work by Judd is neither AbEx, Pop, or the inherited art system, but presupposes them all by intentionally rejecting them and reducing art to independent objects.

The relationships across traditions or prior art positions are not "influences" but grounds or preconditions for meaning or intelligibility in the new art per se.

Visual System Matrix (review first)


Visual Art Interdependent System, c.1950-c.1980: Artist Examples

Jackson Pollock, 1912-1956

Jackson Pollock, Greyed Rainbow, oil and enamel on canvas, 1953

Pollock at work in studio, 1950 [other images of AbEx artists]

Jackson Pollock, Lavender Mist, 1950

Mark Rothko, (1903-1970)

Mark Rothko, Untitled, No. 9, 1948, oil on canvas

Mark Rothko, No. 3/No. 13, oil, 85 in. x 65 in. 1949

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1952, oil on canvas

Mark Rothko, White and Black on Wine, oil on canvas, 1958


Concurrent Rise of Pop Art: Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Warhol, 1956-1980s

Richard Hamilton, Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?, 1956


Roy Lichtenstein, Blam, magna on canvas, 1962

Roy Lichtenstein, Vicki, magna on canvas, 1964


Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Andy Warhol, Gold Marilyn, oil and acrylic polymer silkscreen on canvas, 1962


Andy Warhol, 200 Campbells Soup Cans, acrylic on canvas, 1962


Andy Warhol, "Liz," silscreen ink and synthetic polymer on canvas, 40 x 40 in., 1963


Andy Warhol, Brillo Boxes, acrylic and silkscreen on wood, 20 x 20 x 17 in., 1969


Andy Warhol, "Diamond Dust Shoes," no. 2 in portfolio of screenprints,
silkscreen ink and diamond dust on paper, 40 x 50, 1980

Andy Warhol, Oxidation Painting, Copper metallic paint and urine on canvas, 78 x 218 ins., 1978
[background: artworld inside joke and queering of Pollock and Ab-Ex]



The Challenge of Minimalism, c. 1959-1980

Frank Stella, Tomlinson Court Park (second version) (Black Painting series),
enamel on canvas, 84 x 109 in., 1959
[$5,060,000 at Sotheby's Nov. 8, 1989]

Frank Stella, Scramble, acrylic on canvas, 1968

Donald Judd, Woodcut in ivory black, 21x30 in., 1961-78

Donald Judd, Untitled, stainless steel and Plexiglas, 1966-68

Donald Judd, Untitled, Copper, Ten Units, 1969

Donald Judd, Six Aquatints, 1980

Donald Judd, Two Aquatints, open left and open right, 1980


Martin Irvine