Not an Illustration but the Equivalent: A Cognitive Approach to Abstract Expressionism

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Overview

The author of this well-illustrated study uses the heuristic models developed by contemporary cognitive scientists for describing human perception and cognition to articulate a new interpretive framework and critical terminology to address the interpretation of New York School abstraction. Although art history, as it stands now, offers few methodological avenues to address such issues persuasively, recent cognitive psychology provides the possibility of treading new interpretive ground. This book, therefore, is an attempt to bring the latest findings of cognitive psychology to bear on the interpretation of Abstract Expressionism. Though frequently articulate about their intentions, Abstract Expressionist artists have frustrated interpretive ventures by deliberately avoiding clear explanations of their individual works. By insisting that their works were abstract yet simultaneously capable of disseminating meaning to a wider audience, the artists ran afoul of accepted notions of abstract art and raised a number of key issues that have bedeviled scholarship ever since the movement began. If the majority of critics saw abstraction in purely formal terms, the artists themselves insisted that the function of their works was the construction and communication of meaning. However, the artists never clarified the nature of this meaning nor the ways in which meaning could be specifically communicated by means of an abstract idiom. Conceptual tools emerging from recent cognitive science, however, permit the investigator not only to put the spectator's experience at the center of interpretive ventures, but they also allow a redefinition of abstraction's ability to disseminate meaning in accordance with the claims made by the Abstract Expressionists about their own works. The object is to answer questions such as: Under what kind of critical assumptions is meaning compatible with an abstract pictorial idiom? How did the artists of the New York School engage in the construc
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780838637104
  • Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 176

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9
Introduction 13
1 Strange Bedfellows: Intentionality and the Beholder's Share 21
2 The Interpretation of Abstraction and the Politics of Political Interpretation 30
3 Alternative Paradigms for Meaning: Abstraction as Disguised Figuration, or How Abstract is Abstract? 42
4 The Nature of Metaphor: Arbitrary or Motivated? 56
5 Cognitive Science and the Beholder's Share: Image Schemata and the Structure of Bodily Experience 65
6 The Semantic and Bodily Structure of Metaphor: Rothko and the Verticality Schema 75
7 Context 91
8 Inside and Outside: Freedom and Containment 105
9 Force Schemata and the Time as Space Metaphor in Gestural Painting: Pollock, de Kooning, and Kline 127
10 Allover Composition versus Images Structured by Opposition: A Question of Balance 142
Conclusion 155
Notes 159
Index 168
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