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Free «Modern Movements, Consumer Culture and Art» Essay Sample

Comparison and contrast between the work of Helen Frankenthaler and Frank Stella

Frank Stella was an artist, associated with the hard edge painters of the 1960s. Kleiner noted that Stella eliminated many of the variables connected to the painting (752). Frank Stella came up with the simplified images of thin, evenly spaced pinstripes on colored grounds which had no central focus, no painterly or expressive elements, only limited surface modulation and no tactile quality. Kleiner indicated that Stella’s systematic painting illustrates Greenberg’s insistence on purity in art (752).

On the other hand, Helen Frankenthaler emphasized painting’s basic properties. However rather than producing sharp, unmodulated shapes, as the hard edge artists, such as Frank Stella, had done, the color field painters poured diluted paint onto unprinted canvas, allowing the pigments to soak in. It is therefore hard to conceive of another painting method that results in such literal flatness.

An example of Helen Frankenthaler work is The Bay, 1963, in which she poured color onto unprimed canvas, allowing the pigments to soak into fabric. This example underscores that a painting is simply a pigment on a flat surface. Contrary to Helen Frankenthaler’s works, in many of Stella’s other works, the shapes within the painting seem to determine the shape of the work’s format instead of the format that influences the shapes as it is traditional (Buser 77). 



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The images created by Helen Frankenthaler appear to be spontaneous and almost accidental. According to Kleiner, these works differ from those of Frank Stella in that Frankenthaler subordinated the emotional component so integral to expressionism to resolving formal problems (753). Unlike Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella’s works reinforced the notion that “what you see is what you see”, which implied that painters, interested in producing advanced art, must reduce their work to its essential elements and that the viewer must acknowledge that a painting was simply pigment on a flat surface (Kleiner 752).

An example of Frank Stella’s painting work is Musee National d’Art Moderne Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), in which Stella tried to achieve purity in painting, using evenly spaced pinstripes on color grounds (Kleiner 752). His canvases had no central focus, no painterly or expressive elements and no tactile quality. In addition, Frankenthaler poured paint onto the canvas, moved it around with a brush and let it soak in and stain the canvas (Kleiner 752).        

The relationship between modern movements and consumer culture

According to Boyer, the term ‘consumer culture’ refers to the cultures in which mass consumption and production shape perceptions, values desires and constructions of personal identity (158). Consumer culture began to assume its modern contours after the civil war. Boyer says that “the explosive growth of industrialization and its accompanying techniques of mass distribution made the consumption of ready made goods possible on an unprecedented scale” (159). Modern movements in the area of urbanization and population growth broadened markets of consumption. It was noted that as mass production pushed prices down and as the department stores offered cheap knockoffs of expensive goods, immigrants and working class of Americans got their own taste of consumerism (Boyer 159).

Also, the consumer movement arose in the progressive Era as citizens, concerned about unsafe products and environment hazards, used lobbying, voting and journalistic exposes to press for government protection. According to Boyer, progressive reformers espoused a different kind of consumer activism, thus mobilizing shopper’s purchasing power to promote social change (Boyer 159).  Researchers say that women suffragists likewise used consumer pressure to demand respect and support from businesses that required their patronage. The modern movements revived in the late 1960s flourished in the 1970s and despite a conservative backlash against government regulation, survived in diminished form in the 1990s (Boyer 159). 

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How the issues of culture and society shaped the art

Art shapes life and it is in turn shaped by culture and society. Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort noted that culture informs and art becomes a force for change in society (128). Society is in a state of enormous transition, hence the artist’s moral responsibility demands that he should attempt to understand these changes. Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort also indicated that “culture regulates and shapes art because they function at symbolic level” (129). Culture and society shape art because it works with practical power and they are responsible to a considerable extent for the direction in which society moves. The issues of culture and society have shaped the art because they stand for that optimum control and creativity to which mans’ practical life constantly aspires (Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 129).


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