Was the use of automatism to pry into abstraction and the subconscious essential to Abstract Expressionism? It can be asserted that it was significant in unlocking the mystery and meaning of the abstract plane; a gateway into the world of De Kooning and Pollock where the discovery of automatism led to a subconscious and spontaneous flow of gestural line. After Pollock practiced automatism it transformed his painting as he moved away from the Indian based iconography and then De Kooning adopted it with dramatic effect.
It was a belief in the liberating power of impulse and the unconscious. Not to draw lines , but to release them as it were into the wild, liberated, left to their sort in uncharted waters to find a natural form, a kind of golden mean within abstraction occurring naturally in nature direct from the artists hand, the flow leading to mythical images that could be consciously shaped. It was called, after Paul Klee, “hunting and exploration” by linear and splattering maneuver where subliminally suggested representative forms would meld with non specifiable forms theoretically created by chance and influenced by gestural rhythm, again back to the African mask, and primeval first movements. Could the orgasm be faked?:
The male Surrealists passionately desired woman’s ability to bear children, which is why they desired woman. Indeed. I would argue that much of Surrealism is an attempt to appropriate woman’s power to give birth by every treacherous means possible. Much Surrealist imagery can be understood as the product of a false pregnancy—a strangely aborted product from a female point of view. —Donald Kuspit
Stanley William Hayter – had a big impact on the American Abstract Expressionists. Originally he had set up his print shop Studio 17 in Paris where a lot of the avant-garde artists there came to print. He fled France because of the invading German army during World War II. He had been producing pamphlets in his print shop on how to blow up German tanks.
He was extremely anti-Nazi and Hitler had placed a bounty on his head. Hayter was a pretty tough individual. When he fled France he experienced a month long trip across the Atlantic on a boat that was dodging submarines. He finally arrived in New York City around 1940 where he set up his Studio 17 print shop anew. This was an important meeting place where all the expatriated European artists would come to do art and interact. Printmaking is fortunately an art of praxis – artists have to come together to use the same press and equipment. Technical necessities bring printmakers together; with that comes an experimental chemistry of exchange. …
…The American Abstract Expressionists knew all these famous artists like Andre Masson and Max Ernst who came to do work at Studio 17: the artists they had read about were suddenly here in the USA. Many came to Studio 17 to have contact with members of the European avant-garde who they revered. From what I understand Hayter had artists do preliminary exercises on test printing plates: exercises in automatism. This was the exercise he had me do in 1984 when he was my teacher and it was the same one that Jackson Pollock had done in 1944 – 45. It is very interesting to see the transformation of Pollock’s work compared to what he had done previously. He was painting abstract work based on American Indian symbols and iconography; these had some movement but were not completely open and gestural. After he did the experimental plates with Hayter the subconscious gestural element started coming out and began his launch into the drip paintings.Read More:http://dks.thing.net/Donald-Kuspit-Diane-Thodos.htmla
by: W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)
OW as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.