It isn’t hard to understand the “abstract” part of Abstract Expressionism. It’s the “Expressionism” part that is more obscure. Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko defined the movement in the 1940s and ’50s (Their work can be viewed at the current MoMA show “Abstract Expressionist New York”). No one thinks that Pollock’s splatters or Rothko’s hovering squares of color are supposed to depict anything else. They are just shapes and colors and splatters of paint. The abstract nature of the paintings is obvious. But what do they express?

“Abstract Expressionist New York.” Through April 25. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Pollock spoke about his paintings as “expressing an inner world — in other words — expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces.” I suppose we can conclude that Pollock’s inner… More…

 

Driving through the hills of northern San Diego County in the evening is lonely. The sun sets due west over the Pacific Ocean, red sinking into blue. There’s the scrub brush and the desert flora, dusty green against brown and beige. The streets are so wide, so empty. Streetlights throw down orange circles at regular intervals, electrified polka dots for nobody. The sound of tires against smooth concrete roads matches the tempo and degree of the light, soft and rounded over the canyons, content barely to exist at all.

David Hockney understood that light and that tempo. He came to Los Angeles for the light. He came also for the space, the open space just sitting there, waiting for the light to come upon it. It was the solution to a formal problem: Where do you go from… More…