Painting Today: Commentary on Chapter 3: Neo-Expressionism


     Neo-Expressionism is known for it’s “exaggeration, heightened colors, myth and personal imagery.” This period of time throughout the 80’s in painting, rose heavy debate and many important questions. These artists were following a time when absolute abstraction, the all-over principle of Jackson Pollock, and the idea that art is an object that only speaks of and for itself without being referencial of anything outside itself. Artists like Anselm Kiefer and Sigmar Polke, where using simliar principles of “all over” and thick, textured painting techniques, along with bringing back elements of imagery. The key underlying factor behind neo-expressionist work is the realization that “art is a social event, a communicator of human experience…” and could deal with “politics, spirituality and consciousness.” The act of painting itself was in fact a statement of the artists own identity; a rawness of human experience. This leads into one of the many debatable issues within this period, which involves appropriation.

     Looking back at this period, it can be said that artists were testing the limits of what we now refer to as ‘intellectual property’ and copy right policies. Appropriation is used in this chapter not only losely, but also negatively. It refers to direct imagery as well as cultural and symbolic imagery and ideas referencial of either past or present time periods. The concern that I thought to be the most potent at this end of the perspective was that of ‘the Kiefer syndrome’. This question of how to render information, “separated from us by space, time, or cultural customs” without misrepresenting or simplifying the subject through ethnocentric means. What Simon Schama (historian pg. 68) wasn’t addressing, was the key factor that all art is comprised of a compilation of information from different histories, influences, people and experiences, and that the translation of that information is unique to each artist, regardless of what time period or cultural background they are from. Christopher Le Brun, spoken like a creator of images, expressed a dislike to the word Appropriation. He says “it represents two things for me: a skepticism or disbelief in even the possibility of the natural continuity and change of painting, and a misunderstanding of what an artistsic language is.” Limiting use of visual or cultural information simply limits the communication and emotional impact.

All content sighted is derived from Painting Today by Tony Godfrey, PHAIDON


By klcloonan

Los Angeles Interdisciplinary Artist

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