Alley (oops!) Abstracts

As a teacher I never backed away from a fight. My job was to provoke, to engage, to strike a match & kindle the G-Spot in a virgin intellect.

So – with something like Dadaism or Surrealism or Abstract Expressionism, for example – I would shove the seemingly incomprehensible and/or outrageous right up in a student’s face.

“My kid sister has finger-painting better than that taped to our refrigerator!” was an oft-repeated remark when I showed a Pollock or a de Kooning or a Rothko to a class.

Game on!

Nor did I ever belittle a student. My own incomprehensible shock & awe as a college student when first encountering Picasso was palpable. And, truth-be-told, modern 20th-century art was deliberately obfuscated by artists who were consciously avant-garde. “Épater le bourgeois” was their motto, and you can’t thumb your way through any of the modernist ‘isms’ without a roadmap.

Additionally, what never fails to set teeth on edge, is the sticker price on some of these muddled canvases.

The most expensive work of art ever sold? A 140 million dollar drip-painting by Jackson Pollock!

No 5, 1948, Jackson Pollock

No 5 (1948)

• Painted by Jackson Pollock (1912-56).

• Sold privately in 2006, for $140 million.

• Seller: David Geffen. Buyer David Martinez.

If unconfirmed reports are correct, Mexican financier David Martinez paid $140 million for this signature work by Jackson Pollock, making it the world’s most expensive painting ever. Demonstrates the growing appetite for concrete art, but other factors may be involved: notably the relative rarity of Pollock’s works, his unique drip/splash style of ‘action painting’, and his American nationality. The 4′ x 8′ composition, comprising oil, enamel and aluminum paint on fiberboard, is a nest-like tangle of browns, yellows and greys. It exemplifies Pollock’s ‘all-over’ approach to fine art painting, which treats all areas of the canvas equally, rejecting all conventional points of reference or focus.

2nd most expensive painting? A 137 million dollar canvas by action-painter Willem de Kooning of a woman (3rd in a series of six) that some have snickered looks like “Doris Day with shark’s teeth.”

Woman III, Willem de Kooning

Woman III (1953)

• Painted by Willem de Kooning (1904-97).

• Sold privately in 2006, for $137 million.

• Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: Steven A. Cohen

One of the most consistent and longest-lived exponents of the American Abstract Expressionism style, Dutch-born Willem de Kooning was noted for his biomorphic synthesis of figurative and abstract styles, often using the female form. Woman III is one of a series of six numbered ‘Woman’ paintings and the only one still in a private collection. The work’s exploration of Freudian themes is visible in its staring eyes, huge breasts and distorted torso, as well as its aggressive brushwork and absence of ‘human’ colour.

Ain’t got that kind of money, you say? Tell you what, I’ll give you three “masterpieces” of abstract art, ABSOLUTELY FREE!

Yep, here they are:

livingston alley wall abstract

livingston alley wall abstractlivingston alley wall abstract

All you got to do is name them for me, give them the title they deserve, and you can have ’em. Who knows what they might be worth when you turn around and sell them!

And here’s a free lesson, too…

Art is all around us, everywhere – just open your eyes and let it in.

Just for the sake of closure I thought I would mention Robert Rauschenberg. Said in the textbooks to be the “Father of Pop Art,” Rauschenberg lived in South Florida and was a frequent visitor to my college. In fact, he often exhibited his brand new works at our campus art gallery before they went on international tour.

Robert Rauschenberg

Once he “created” a work of art by “erasing” a work of art. It was a de Kooning that he erased.  Took him a month to wipe it clean, he claims.

4:26 min Rauschenberg video discussing his erased de Kooning

Rauschenberg once said he liked to operate “in the gap between art & life.”

Oopsjohn likes to prowl back alleys…

🙂 Go Figure! 🙂

3 Replies to “Alley (oops!) Abstracts”

  1. I best like the John Hayes abstracts, more real feeling and thought than any of these birds, who I still detest.

    I was in NYC post Pollack, who’d been a cheap & nasty drunk at the local bars a decade before. My generation, surrounded by roaring praise of Rauschenberg and De Kooning viewed them as smooth operators, smart hipsters. They got into the Guggenheim as a result of getting into Peggy, and Peggy, legs spread for any hard drinking male painter, made them famous and made them rich.

    There was a bar on St Marks Place where they could trade paintings for bar tabs. When their canvases escalated in price, they went and bought the paintings back and sold them in to the hysterically worshiping upper east siders and collectors. I think it was Rauschenberg who worked for the same billboard company I did, ArtKraft Strauss. He returned in his heyday to buy the entire billboard, which they still had stuck in the back to reuse, most of those things were 30 X 60 feet on masonite. He likely made a good penny for that. I wish they’d spent more time erasing each other.

    In the process of painting for a lifetime, you can’t help but narrow down the reasons for sticking to it, the refining takes place in the natural process of doing. You discover what you cleave to. if you’re lucky you discover why.

    These Abstract Expressionists were, to me, men of enormous self-loathing and a furious contempt for their fellow man. Women were a favorite target, don’t tell me that’s not a knife in the groin in the De Kooning. Pollack famously beat the beans out his wife on a regular basis. Some of it perpetuated by making themselves wrenchingly dependent on the whim of very rich, whimsical, seduceable female patrons. The ones with monied husbands, with galleries, museums, country houses, limos, European parties, the chic NY Art Scene, and full liquor cabinets. With power.

    But actually reaching some altitude (or is it depth) in themselves or their creative output? No, I think not. They had a lapdog public and exploited it. None of them actual feeling humans or curious, or devoted to even their own expansion much less anyone else’s. Major chicanery, and if a movement resulted, it was all bowel.

    Safe to say you have, as always, inspired a response, John Hayes. Safe to say I didn’t like any of them a whit. Safe to say I’m glad to have seen them here and remembered why. Thanks.


    1. That’s my job, to provoke & engage. 🙂

      As an established painter you were right there on the scene and it is an honor & a rare treat for you to contribute such a long and passionate response to little oops’ blog with solid insights that surely are worth if not their weight in gold at least in brushes and stretched canvases.

      Thanks, Barbara!


      1. Bless your heart. Now YOU are a curious guy. That is, A seeker. A shining intellect. Nice to know you, for that and multitudinous more reasons.


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