Sunday, July 12, 2009

Raymond Saunders ~ Red Star, Jasper Johns and Robert Colescott

Just so you know, Fifty Two Pieces operates 7 days a week, 365 days for one year only, vacations included. Both Amy and I are away from home this weekend. She put her posts together early; I chose to wait. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? Fortunately tomorrow for me which is now today is three hours earlier than Portland Daylight Savings Time.

So, here is Raymond Saunders after a full day in Brooklyn and a trip over to Governors Island which required transit through Manhattan. Yikes, Raymond Saunders was born in 1934 so he's been around for some time. Painting, creating art, doing his thing so to speak. Doing his thing is the important part here. In the 1960's at the height of the Black Power movement, abstraction was the focus of the art world. Artists like Raymond Saunders who made color field paintings or assemblages were not treated well by the movement. Saunders was criticized for works such as his 1970's Red Star, shown in our post for the day. Saunders defended his penchant for Abstraction that looks to Jasper Johns' symbols and numerals with this statement ... "racial hang-ups are extraneous to art."

Here's an excerpt from Raymond Saunders' Black Is a Color published in 1967.
Some angry artists are using their art as political tools, instead of vehicles of free expression...An artist who is always harping upon resistance, discrimination, opposition, besides being a drag, eventually plays right into the hands of the politicians he claims to despies--and is held there, unwittingly (and witlessly) reviving slavery in another form. For the artist, this is aesthetic atrophy.

Certainly the American black artist is in a unique position to express certain aspects of the current American scene, both negative and positive, but if he restricts himself to these alone, he may risk becoming a mere cypher, a walking protest, a politically prescribed stereotype, negating his own mystery and allowing himself to be shuffled off into an arid overall mystique.

Racial hangups are extraneous to art, no artist can afford to let them obscure what runs through all art--the living root and the ever-growing aesthetic record of human spiritual and intellectual experince. Can't we get clear of these degrading limitations, and recognize the wider reality of art, where color is the means and not the end?

This wasn't exactly the position of Robert Colescott from Week 20 here at Fifty Two Pieces.

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