ADZ4999 Constellation: Concept (After Modernism)

The After Modernism lectures have benefited me greatly as I feel as if I have learnt quite a lot about the different art movements and what these movements entail. During the eight weeks of these lectures I learnt about movements such as modernism, abstract expressionism, pop art, minimalism, fluxus and conceptualism. One of the art movements that I enjoyed learning about the most was abstract expressionism movement. Abstract expressionism is an art movement born from artists living in the 1940s in New York. Around this period of time in America we’re two world wars, the Great Depression, atomic devastation and also a Cold War which prompted art pieces that reflected a very dark time in American history. One of the artists that really interested me about this art movement was the works of Mark Rothko.
Mark Rothko was an American painter of Russian Jewish descent. He is one of the most famous postwar American artists as well as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Although Rothko did not tether himself to any specific art movements his work is generally identified with abstract expressionism and colour field. One of the reasons I was drawn to Rothko’s work is because his pieces pay a lot of attention to elements like colour, shape, balance, depth, composition and scale. A lot of his later pieces from 1949 and onwards all have a similar look to them. The size of these pieces are all large scale still but instead of being able to have an idea of what the painting is, to me his work seems to base itself more around the colours and space he uses then what the painting is actually meant to be of. Rothko would always avoid explaining what his work was about and he believed that abstract image could represent the nature of ‘human drama’.


‘It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing.’ (Rothko)

Above is an oil painting created by Rothko in 1950 called ‘White Centre (Yellow, Pink and Lavander on Rose). This is one of my favourite pieces created in Rothko’s signature block colour style. What I love about his ‘block colour’ pieces is the layered effect they have. This is to do with the technique of layering paints and also from the colours he chooses to use in his paintings. The colours he uses compliment each other in each of his paintings especially the one above. Also the brighter colours appear to be more forward then the other colours in the back ground which creates a colour illusion. What also helps this aspect is the darker colours that frame each coloured rectangle. This helps to give his paintings a more three dimensional effect and makes the colour contrast very effective. Rothko’s work has also inspired me to use colour for one of my final outcomes in my Outside/Inside project. With my own work I really want to achieve a very colourful and textural look so that I can create a three dimensional effect and hopefully my work will have the same colour illusion Rothko has. Unlike Rothko I will be working on a collection of more small scale pieces. Doing this will help me by being able to concerntrate on the texture and detail on a smaller scale.

Another artist that has inspired me through out these constellation lectures is the work of Willem de Kooning, in particular ‘The Woman Series’.


Above is a painting called ‘Woman I’ created by Kooning between 1950-1952. It’s took Kooning quite a while to preduce this piece as he kept working on top of what he had already created repeatedly until he finally came up with this outcome. The painting itself is quite a bold statement as it ‘reflects the age-old cultural ambivalence between reverence for and fear of the power of the feminine.’ (Museum of Modern Art, 2017) What I really enjoy about this piece is the use of line that Kooning has used. The outline of the abstract Woman in this painting is very harsh and I really like the effect this has on this piece. By doing this he has broken the painting up into segments which I find quite effective and makes the colours of the painting really catch your eye. Kooning has also layered his painting using the oil paints when working on top of areas. This has helped to make the brush strokes in the oil paint more perceptible and leaves a very interesting texture on the painting. The white areas on this painting also help to highlight and make the other colours surrounding it stand out. With my own work I want to use the white as a highlight like Kooning’s work to make the other colours around the area to look more layered and also brighten areas. Kooning has also used colours that compliment each other really well and make this painting very aesthetically pleasing. The little pockets of yellow also bring a very fluorescent and bright vibe to the painting also.

After looking at both Mark Rothko and Willem de Koonings work from the abstract expressionism time period I feel as if I have a better understand of this particular art movement. I have learnt a great deal about how to use colour in different way from two amazing artists and I have also grasped a better understand of ways I can create layered effects and texture using mixtures of colours and also by layering paints.

References (2017). Abstract expressionism. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2017].

Tate. (n.d.). Mark Rothko 1903-1970 | Tate. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2017].

The Art Story. (n.d.). Mark Rothko Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2017].

The Museum of Modern Art. (n.d.). Willem de Kooning. Woman I. 1950–52 | MoMA. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2017].