In art, every movement and stream is associated with a range of factors stemming from different spheres of life such as economy, culture, and society. The consideration of them is important during the evaluation of the medium that transfers the information to the future generations. Every change of the genuine style might represent a significant shift affecting many individuals. Presented paper aims to discuss neo-expressionism with the references to such artists as Clemente (Italy), Kiefer, and Baselitz (both Germany). Throughout the paper, the common features for the works of the artists as well as socio-cultural and economic background will be identified to demonstrate the connection of the art and society and the globalization of the art in XX century and following years.
Overview of Neo-Expressionism and Social and Economic Factors Surrounding It
Regarding neo-expressionism, one should place stress on the following distinctive features of this artistic movement. First of all, it was born within the post-modernistic perspectives on the art. In other words, it is not related to the classic interpretations of the art, and its approaches are directed towards painting and ideas sharing. The second phrase of the post-modernism is tied to neo-expressionism as it aims to describe different characteristics in the shifts that have occurred in the world and to present the viewpoints on its most critical issues and future development directions. In this regard, the key element is the analysis of the history and the formation of particular attitude towards it with the consideration of the events that have just occurred.
On the other hand, the characteristics of neo-expressionism are largely related to the use of the retrospective. It particularly concerns the limitations of the perspectives used by the representatives of this artistic stream. They were assured that all the good was in the past; thus, they should create their artistic works within the limitations dictated by the past. In certain way, the opportunities of the artists were restrained (Stocks & Cothren). Such their position demonstrated both the loyalty towards the old styles and mainstreams in the field of art and the opposition to modern artistic streams and inability to accept the modernity with all the uncertainty that it possessed. Obviously, the past had the end within itself, and it helped the artists to survive social and economic changes that followed the end of the war and to fight the horrors that were born by the bloody confrontations and their effects on the morale.
Indeed, neo-expressionism refers to the past as it has developed as the reaction to the minimalistic trends that have been prevailing in the art since the 1970s. The authors have started to employ more vivid colors, visual constructions and ideas that correlated with the moods of the society and its aspirations for the end of hard times (Stocks & Cothren). The works of the contemporary artists actually demonstrate high level of self-consciousness in relation to the events that have occurred in the past. The emphasis on the newness that has been quite relevant in the prior artistic movements was ignored by neo-expressionists who considered that everything good has already been created and that there was nothing new on the Earth. Such an attitude actually corresponds to the theories used for the explanation of the people’s reaction to the uncertainty. If people are confronted with a particular kind of uncertainty, they accommodate themselves to new circumstances or recognize the need for change. Obviously, the representatives of neo-expressionism have chosen the first option and decided to accommodate their works to the canons of the style that has already been developed in the past. Such a tendency actually secured the artists from possible disappointments associated with the perceptions of their works since they have already fallen under certain style. In times of uncertainty that prevailed in XX century, such a stream secured this goal perfectly.
Further, neo-expressionists contributed to the advancement of their stream by playing various historical themes and materiality as the approach towards the understanding of the phenomenon. Moreover, they tended to mix different representing materials. All of it raised the interest of the critics who moderately perceived the works of the artists and contributed to the advancement of this stream in general. At the same time, it should be stressed that despite the loyalty to the old forms and approaches in art, the authors’ works still reflected the change that occurred in the field of art during the latest years. In particular, they attempted to mix vivid colors inherent in impressionism and the intentions of the cubism. At the same time, it should be stressed that the viability of this art was highly debated (Dude & Barron). The critics emphasized that the return to the art, mythic images, neo-expressionism itself, individualistic tendencies as well as the traditional forms in the era of feminism that saturated art market and the rise of the marginalized movement were not the factors contributing to the increase in demand for these artistic works (Sandler). Accordingly, despite the overall praising of the works, they were considered as being unable to survive at the market.
All in all, it should be stressed that as an artistic movement, neo-expressionism has developed within the postmodern art stream in reaction to the minimalistic artistic practices that prevailed in the art before. The artists attempted to introduce the status quo in regard to the artistic issues, approaches, and styles. They also tried to assert the importance of the following of everything good that was in the past. Thus, they chose the accommodation in approaching to their works. At the same time, it should be stressed that these artists still incorporated some of the modern practices into their works, mainly stemming from cubism and other post-mourning styles (Sandler). The critics did not regard the works created by these artists as the ones to have high level of liquidity at the market. However, it is considered that neo-expressionism emerged in response to certain social demand for the solution from uncertainty and as an alternative to minimalism that prevailed before.
The Neo-Expressionistic Tendencies in the Works of Clemente
Clemente represents the neo-expressionism movement and its interpretation in the Italian art. Personally, Clemente was extremely impressive artist who preferred to travel a lot to catch the beauty of the world and make it still in his paintings (Pinfold). Transavantgarde feature of his works actually makes it hard to attribute him to any kind of the artistic movements. He was concerned with the use of fresco, watercolors, and temper in the artistic environment; and through his works, he aimed to advance these painting techniques (Pinfold). Clemente reinforces the features of neo-expressionism while employing different details that resonated with his time and society.
In particular, Clemente indeed opposed to the minimalistic approach to painting by using vivid colors and increased shapes and mystic themes for his paintings. On a large scale, he referred to sexual intercourse in his works in order to demonstrate the consuming of the partners by each other.
In general, the style employed by Clemente differs from the rest of the neo-expressionism artists since it refers to the topics related to sex and relations among the partners. At the same time, the artist can be still attributed to this stream considering the shapes that he employed in the paintings as well as the message that was encoded in his works (Dude & Barron). Additionally, the way the artist portrays the arms, fingers, tails, and other parts of the bodies correlated with the aspirations of the neo-expressionism artists in terms of both classical techniques and artistic innovations that have been used before. Thus, certain trends of cubism as well as the following Dali’s works are definitely noticeable in Clemente’s pieces of paintings.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that despite the transavantgarde style of Clemente’s works, he still fits into the neo-expressionism approach towards painting. At the same time, he manages to employ the themes that have become more popular in new society and which have been demanded by it. In this regard, he differs from the rest of the neo-expressionists who suffered from low viability of their works.
The Neo-Expressionistic Tendencies in the Works of Kiefer and Baselitz
The analysis of the woks of the German artist Baselitz and his version of neo-expressionism is quite interesting considering the geography of the artist’s life. First of all, it should be stressed that he particularly represents the Germany in this stream; therefore, it would provide one with the opportunity to outline the features of neo-expressionism in relation to the local context (Pinfold). Baselitz stressed the importance of understanding one’s identity and employing it in the artwork. He asserted that the connection to the local motives would actually enable the artist to find his/her niche in the oversaturated art market and ensure sustained living as well as creative work.
Regarding the pieces of art created by this artist, one should place stress on the following connections to neo-expressionism. First of all, the attention of the artist is drawn to the events of the past once again. Baselitz’s works reckons on the past urging the viewers to reconsider their value and importance at modern times (Pinfold). The artist had to live in the world where Germans were closely associated with the guilt and capability, and where the children were asking their parents about the consequences of the wars and genocides (Zhu). In this dimension, Baselitz considered the art to be the medium used for the variety of purposes including the healing, transcending the ideas, reconsideration of the past, and showing the things from totally different perspective (Dude & Barron). On the contrary, the artist strongly opposed to the neo-expressionism traditions developed by Russian and American artists while claiming the importance of preserving the relation to the local contexts.
Asserting the advancement of neo-expressionism, Baselitz widely employed vivid colors as well the fused abstract figures that were opposed to everything created during the years that preceded the rise of neo-expressionism. In such a way, he also praised and saluted the dominance of the vague, amorphous, and abstract ideas of the Western society as opposed to the materialism and disrespect demonstrated in the Eastern communities (Dude & Barron). Moreover, Baselitz frequently shifted the things as well as changed their directions urging the viewer to reconsider the traditional concepts and to be more open to the critical thinking practices and to the perception of the existing world (McEvilley). Moreover, speaking of the uncertainty that was widely spread all over the European continent, it should be stressed that Baselitz frequently employed the anxiety as a part of his works demonstrating complete acceptation of the new reality and the challenges that it has brought to the society. Furthermore, Baselitz demonstrated the variety of human emotions that can be easily associated with the negativity and fear of the uncertainty. At the same time, in opposition to the previous styles and artists that represented them, Baselitz demonstrated the reality that actually prevailed on the European continent, and this definitely contributed to the level of sincerity in his works making them more appealing to the general audience (McEvilley). On the contrary, it should be stressed that such a reveal of the problems and concerns of the society did not contribute to the viability of the works so that the author could not benefit from them on a large scale. The probable reason for that is the refusal to accept the realities and to recognize the guilt, fear, and other strong yet negative emotional states.
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Furthermore, another German representative of neo-expressionism, Kiefer, engaged the relations between the minorities and reconsidered the past from the position of the artist claiming the objectivity of judgment. His mission was to remind the effects of the barbarism on the postwar culture (Dude & Barron). Thus, considering the retrospective approach employed by the author, it should be definitely stressed that he is the representative of neo-expressionism with the hint of German culture due to the reflection of German-Jewish relations in his works.
In contrast, the cultural and economic conditions of the society he lived in drastically changed his perceptions of reality. He believed that the world and Germany in particular could be reunited; yet, the cultures would be still separated from one another (McEvilley). His work Margarete demonstrates the artist’s following of the neo-expressionism standards and the simultaneous employing the German-Jewish topics. The painting reflects a lot of the symbols pictured in the colors inherent in the discussed artistic stream. In particular, the gold paint is used to demonstrate the life and all the related issues (Zhu). Margarete herself was a lover of the guard of the concentration camp. The images are rather illusive and terrifying. It is hard to identify the topic from the beginning, but the overall presentation of the painting is rather appealing and fearful. At the same time, it helps to catch the eye of the viewer and make him/her reassess certain concepts, which is the main objective of the Neo-Expressionism stream.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that there are few common reasons that have led to the emerging of neo-expressionism. First of all, the artists being driven by the reality circumstances opposed the minimalistic tones and approaches towards the things that were popular during the 1970s. Another common feature is their attitude and reaction towards the uncertainty. In general, this topic seems to be the critical one for the discussed representatives of the movement as all these artists have employed it in their works. Moreover, the movement itself is considered to represent a certain response to the oversaturation of life with the anxiety and uncertainty. In order to feel safe, the authors appealed to the past techniques as well the forms. At the same time, all of them incorporated the artistic techniques that made their works quite modern and resonating with the demands of the time. While creating their works, the artists tried to still the time and provide the responses to the topics that seemed to be central to the society they lived in. Next, they aimed to provide the answers or, at least, the suggestions. Thus, Clemente focused on the topics related to sexual intercourse, whereas Kiefer and Baselitz tried to revise the perceptions of Germans and their history.