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Ways of Freedom: Jackson Pollock To Maria Lassing

Billy De Luca

Ways of Freedom: Jackson Pollock To Maria Lassing

Words by Billy De Luca

Mark Rothko 
Untitled (Blue, Yellow, Green on Red), 1954
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York © 2022. 
Digital image Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko
Image: Bildrecht, Wien, 2022
Source: Albertina Modern Press

The Albertina Modern opened its doors recently for its new exhibition, Ways of Freedom: Jackson Pollock To Maria Lassing.

It was a grey, clouded and wet morning—But what better time to go to a museum?  What was presented before me was an amalgamation of thirty-eight artists, with over 100 works sprawled on display.  Each artist reflects an interplay with colour, form, and creativity.  The exhibition showcases this through the dialogue between Abstract Expressionism and Informalism post-WWII. A dialogue that, at the time, was pitted against the verismo of communist art of the era. The exhibit showcases their ultimate success, one that pushed freedom and creativity out to a world that needed a respite from the terror and squalor of the past two decades.

Arnulf Rainer
Vertikalgestaltung, 1951
The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna – The ESSL Collection 
Image: Photoatelier Laut © Arnulf Rainer
Source: Albertina Modern Press

Rothko, Pollock, Motherwell, Elain and Willem De Kooning, Krasner and more have travelled across the Atlantic to meet with their European counterparts. The victory over fascism in Europe, and the events which caused its reckoning, catalysed a reaction from this new generation of artists. Their art was informal, subjective, and questioned the demoralised and terrorsome capabilities of the world at the time. They looked away from the surreal and geometric styles that defined the art world  pre 1939.  Instead, they depicted expressions irreproducible by the silkscreen and darkroom of photography. It would be impossible to convey, in painting form, the desolation and poisonous extremes of experience following the release of war images captured in the camps and trenches. Palette and paintbrush would be unable to reproduce such a precise and visceral image of reality. As such, abstraction became a visual language that produced an alternate sight, an alternate world with alternate symbols, methods and techniques. A place where imprecise actualities stood alongside the horrors of history. 

Jackson Pollock 
Enchanted Forest, 1947 
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice | David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation © Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Bildrecht, Wien 2022
Source: Albertina Modern Press

Morris Louis 
Quo Numine Laeso, 1959 
ALBERTINA, Wien - Leihgabe E. Ploil 
Image: Bildrecht, Wien 2022
Source: Albertina Modern Press

The anxieties of the new world are seen to be taken through the thick paint of Willem and the slashed strokes of Elaine De Kooning, along with a web of dripped paint is poured on by Pollock. Gestural shapes are ingrained by Bischoffshauen.  Contrasting colours are powdered onto canvas by Frankenthaler, while Alfons Schilling’s annular canvases float on the wall, almost turning as eyes flicker by. The light touch of Morris Louis shades his brilliant orange background with a sheen of black like a billowing curtain. Just as meticulously, Arnulf Rainer’s hand sears like fire over his canvases, streaking black over thin streaks of light and hue.  Green paint vinculates through a Lassnig canvas and soft rectangles read as blue sky and green plains, cut by a yellow block of the horizon, forming a Rothko—as meditative and fundamental as a breath.  

Lee Krasner
Bald Eagle, 1955   
ASOM Collection © Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Image: Bildrecht, Wien, 2022
Source: Albertina Modern Press
Helen Frankenthaler 
April Mood, 1974
ASOM Collection © Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc.
Image: Bildrecht, Wien, 2022
Source: Albertina Modern Press

Abstaining from the excruciating face of formalist structures, the exhibition showcases a panoply of life, one that reaches a sense of space and air and thought.  This was well needed when the works were conceived and remain vital even now.  Whether it is the size of Pranchensky’s ten-metre-wide red canvas, the direct intensity of Hermann Nitsch’s flow of sanguine paint, or the weight of Motherwell's shapes, the Albertina Modern displays more than just an exhibition.  It marks a celebration of the individual over the constraints of the past and reflects a symbol of artistic endeavour.  A symbol grown from Western shores and developed internationally.  The transatlantic minds engage in shaping equally great artworks.  A great unfurling of artistry is shown in the daring of a modern hand in a modern world.

Ways of Freedom will be on show until 22nd January 2023.

For more information, visit: www.albertina.at/en/albertina-modern

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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