|dc.contributor.author||Homad Johnson, Jewell||-|
|dc.description.abstract||Throughout history the role of the artist has often been an expression of worship and the depiction of the sacred realms interaction with our own. “As above so below” was typical. In certain periods of art history, in the various eastern and western traditions, the ‘divine’ was often regarded as the source of the artist’s inspiration, work and abilities. The artist had a role to communicate the sacred reflection in what they surveyed, and was an integral part of creative endeavours. The artist did not make art for art’s sake, nor seek fame in the process. It is this dynamic process of the inspired artist’s connection and communication with the ‘sacred’ however the artist or their society defined it, that is the subject of this research thesis. This is undertaken through centering on Robert Motherwell and the analysis of his 1944 paper delivered on “The Place of the Spiritual in a World of Property” at Mt. Holyoke during the Âmericain decades.
In active collaborative roles were individuals from throughout Abstract Expressionism, Dada, and Surrealism joined with members of the academy in defending, expanding and redefining how we perceive the sacred role of the artist in the face of post-modernism. Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), whose academic studies in philosophy at Stanford University, Harvard and Columbia University prepared him in art history and theory, laying a unique foundation for the man who, though self-taught, found himself one of the most important painters and cultural ambassadors for the New York School of Abstract Expressionists and Surrealism. In the documentary ‘Robert Motherwell: Storming the Citadel’ he spoke on the importance of each generation discovering “their task,” which usurps the symbolic citadel’s power of the past. For ‘them’ this was to create work that equalled or surpassed that of Europe by painting the ‘truth’. While their work was ‘new’, it could be said they weren’t seeking a disconnection from the past but rather what Schuon calls “something more ample, and sublime, or explicit; to crown and not abolish.”
Art historian Jack Flam noted this implacability for authenticity caused these artists to be “someone instead who’s inspired- a kind of seer.“ These religious implications are confirmed by Motherwell’s 1944 lecture originally titled “The Place of the Spiritual in a World of Property”:
“ . . . The social condition of the modern world, which gives every experience its form, is the spiritual breakdown, which followed the collapse of religion. This condition has led to the isolation of the artist from the rest of society. The modern artist’s social history is that of a spiritual being in a property-loving world. No synthesized view of reality has replaced religion. Science is not a view, but a method. The consequence is that the modern artist tends to become the last active spiritual being in the great world. It is true that each artist has his own religion. It is true that artists are constantly excommunicating each other. It is true that artists are not always pure, that some times they are concerned with their public standing or their material circumstance. Yet for all that, it is the artists who guard the spiritual in the modern world . . . “
In the wake of the Enlightenment, and the perceived coup d’état of Science and the Rational Mind, the seat of Knowledge as sacred activity has fallen from view, yet prior to the 1960’s these artists and intellectuals appear to have deeply reconsidered sacred contemplation that covertly or in view, informed their artistic activity. In Judaism and Islam, the arts’ emphasis is non-representational because these matters extend beyond the Rational. In the modern era, it was key Jewish benefactors that championed Abstract Expressionism when these artists were fought as enemies of the desired American culture. These interdisciplinary characters challenged the historical establishment and increasingly individualised precepts of ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ [the seeds of post-modernism] through new perceptions of the world. This included framing the metaphysical as a companion, if not an antidote, to the prejudice of the empirical gaze. That this was achieved outside of the umbrella of religious art both reflects the confines of literal representation these artists worked to escape through abstract interpretation. This discretion vis a vis ‘the spiritual’ laid the ground for a politically correct relationship that answered secular demands and fostered an interfaith community that spanned the atheist to the orthodox, and new forms of religion that had been developing from the prior century. Robert Motherwell’s paradoxical relationship with the academy, Arthur Lovejoy (‘History of Ideas’) and Alfred North Whitehead, English mathematician and philosopher, revealed an ongoing project between the scientific arts and fine arts to confront particular concerns for religion, and art, in a materialistic age.
The artist manifests particular aspects of the human being [individual], while representing the creative potential of humanity at large [culture, community], which are ultimately applied to all forms of activity [professional and recreational] and further expose common characteristics and dynamics involved in the artist’s role to express, communicate and reflect the ‘sacred or the divine’ however that is defined.||en_AU|
|dc.publisher||University of Sydney.||en_AU|
|dc.publisher||Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences||en_AU|
|dc.publisher||School of Letters, Art and Media||en_AU|
|dc.publisher||Department of Studies in Religion||en_AU|
|dc.subject||New York school abstract expressionism||en_AU|
|dc.title||Robert Motherwell: the artist the spiritual the modern||en_AU|
|dc.type.pubtype||Master of Arts (Research) M.A.(Res.)||en_AU|
|Appears in Collections:||Sydney Digital Theses (Open Access)|