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Compare-and-Contrast Research Paper Essay

Introduction Present essay seeks to provide the comparative analysis of two artworks – Hoffmann’s Boston Twilight, 1957, belonging to Proto-Abstract Expressionism and Rauschenberg’s Retroactive 1, 1964, which may be attributed to the art movement of Pop-Art. The comparative analysis of these paintings will focus on two crucial aspects – structural and positive.

Structural analysis addresses cultural, historical context, which influenced the discussed artworks, political climate, art movements’ stylistic characteristics, which informed individual work of artists, their subjective motives, influences and inclinations. Secondly, positive analysis of the artworks focuses on the themes depicted, colors and techniques used, formal and stylistic elements, the reflection of cultural and historical context in the artworks etc.

The thesis, present paper defends, may be formulated as follows: Hoffmann’s and Rauschenberg’s artworks were significantly influenced by historical, cultural, social and artistic context. The artistic response to these contexts was different and reflected through opposite art movements. The discussed images belong to different artistic traditions and, hence have many differences. Similarities, however, may be attributed to the similar artistic influences, and utilization of sometimes similar formal and color techniques of composition.

Structural context: art movements, history, politics and subjective perspectives. The general socio-economic and historical context of both artworks (as they were created very close in time – 1957 and 1964) may be characterized by the gradual assault of mass consumption postmodernist society, which influenced the rapid development of popular culture in music, entertainment and cinema. Commoditization has reached almost every sphere of social life and closely approached art through mass media.

The increasing role of mass culture was immediately seen in the new sphere of advertisement, which conflated the elements of ‘high and low’ culture, which became central to the new postmodernist cultural logic (Jameson, 59). Political situation in the United States and Europe was characterized by the intensification of resistance and leftist movements, which, however, abandoned communist platform and focused on new postmodernist tactics, such as situationism, counter-culturalism, influenced by new discoveries in psychoanalysis, philosophy etc.

Politics also became the element of mass culture, as its reproduction was extended from closed couloirs of high cabinets to ordinary population. The response of art movements to the assault of the postindustrial society was irregular and significantly varied from one art movement to another. The dominance of non-objective abstraction in 1940s and 50s was the response to vulgarization of social life, and the manifest of the absence of valuable objective themes in de-humanized world.

Abstractionism, hence was an artistic expression of de-humanization and the search for lost subjectivity (Herskovic, 13-17). However, other extremes also came to existence. That is particularly true of the Pop-Art, which positively responded to the modern developments in economy and culture, synthesizing popular culture in the new form of art. Pop-Art was characterized by ‘externalization’ of art, as the objects of ordinary life and advertisement were widely utilized. The later was particularly evident in the works of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist.

The similar response to changing conditions in society was made by photorealism, which exemplifies the assault of hyperrealism as the new form of cultural affirmation. Such elements of modern society as standardization, de-subjectivization was immediately seen in Pop-Art , which appeared as the resistance to self-revelation, artistic creativity and originality and focuses on the widely acknowledge cultural codes and images (Harrison 2001) . Robert Rauschenberg’s and Hans Hoffmann’s artistic trajectories were significantly influenced by the discussed developments in politics and ideology.

Rauschenberg was, for instance, one of the forerunners of pop-art movement, as he was among the first to use hand-made or found objects in his artworks, combining the elements of high and low culture, using mass-media sources etc (Livingstone, 1990). Such experiments were influenced by Rauschenberg’s strong belief that the genuine artwork should exist between art and life. The technique of ‘combines’ used by Rauschenberg may be described as immediate precursor to postmodernist collage, used in installation art.

Rauschenberg’s mindset position deeply opposed Abstract Expressionism’s argument that the self may be expressed through art. Instead, Rauschenberg focused on representation of reality in its absence of structure, sense and single interpretation. Abstract-Expressionism, which was influenced by Hans Hoffman, in contrast focused on gesture paintings and color field painting techniques. Abstract Expressionism should be understood as a historical consequence of the conflation between European and American artists due to World War 2, which forced may French, German and other artists to immigrate in the United States.

Hans Hoffmann belongs to this group of artists and his destiny significantly influenced his style and ideological orientations (Herskovic, 2003). Hoffman’s style was influenced by cubist tension between depth and surface, expressionistic flamboyance of color and surrealist technique of automatism, which is based on following subconscious drivers of creativity and libidinal forces. The latter influences were synthesized by Hoffmann in his ‘push-pull’ method, which included the use of expressive colors and paint slashes in the view of creating contradiction between cool and warm colors.

Comparative analysis of Hoffmann’s and Rauschenberg’s artworks Both artworks are obviously affected by different artistic movements and styles. Hoffmann’s composition may be posited within abstract expressionism tradition, while Rauschenberg’s painting belongs to Pop-Art movement. On the surface level the similarities between these artistic may be traced in the color usage – in each painting we see the utilization of yellow, green, black, white, red, white and blue colors. Moreover, the presence of grid-like rectangular layout is evident.

Apart from this, both paintings are characterized by the sense of distortion. The distortion in Hoffmann’s artwork Boston Twilight is due to the use of abstract expressionist style, which distorts the contours of objective reality, so that we can not find correspondence between the image and reality (Boston Twilight) that it signifies. However, in Rauschenberg’s composition the distortion is reflected in the plurality of meaning and signification. The interpretation is difficult to realize due to the combination of images inserted in the painting: J. F.

Kennedy at the center, pointing with his finger, cosmonaut with parachute, the duplication of Kennedy’s hand in the right corner and evidently abstract images in other parts. There is no denying the importance of the fact, that such a ‘combine’ creates difficulties for interpretation and distorts it. Furthermore, it should be pointed to the fact that both artworks have the elements of abstraction, contrasting color tones and are influenced by Cubism in using facets of the color. Both paintings create the feeling of collage and it was noted that Rauschenberg’s ‘combine’ technique is very close to it.

Moreover, creating certain color relationships is in important in both images, however, it serves different functions, depending on style and thematic unity. Differences between images are evident in many respects. First of all, art schools are opposite with pop-art, focusing on unification of art and reality, and abstract expressionism, focusing on expressing contradictory being of individual self. Hoffman’s painting is abstract in essence, while Rauschenberg’s refers to widely known political and social images of American President, cosmonaut, which immediately signify objective reality.

The social and political thematic of Rauschenberg’s image immediately points to his belonging to Pop-Art tradition. As far as formal and color structure of the analyzed paintings are concerned blue is dominant in Rauschenberg’s image, while green is dominant in Hoffman’s paintings; the first artist uses vertical stress, while Hoffmann is evidently using horizontal stress. Due to stylistic differences between artworjs, colors mix into one another in Hoffmann’s painting and are separated in Rauschenberg’s one.

Rauschenberg utilizes much more contrast, than Hoffmann, however the image of the latter is much more organic in contrast to geometric structure of Rauschenberg’s composition. Conclusion To sum it up, present analysis proved the initial thesis that both artworks were significantly influenced by historical, social and cultural developments in Western societies in the middle of 20-th century. These developments provoked different responses on the part of art movements, resulting in creation of different styles and techniques.

The latter are reflected in Hoffmann’s and Rauschenberg’s compositions, which are different in many important stylistic respects, however, have much in common due to the same artistic influences. My interest to the discussed paintings is explained by the fact that they are picturesque representations of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Main features, peculiar to each of these styles, may be found in these paintings both in complex and in separate elements. The techniques used by both artists help us better understand other artworks created in these traditions and inform our own artistic endeavors.

Hoffman’s image advantage is in its direct appeal to aesthetic taste and sensibility, while Rauschenberg artwork represents a challenge for viewers in terms of interpreting its political and social content. Works Cited Herskovic, Marika. American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s An Illustrated Survey, New York School Press, 2003. Harrison, Sylvia. Pop Art and the Origins of Post-Modernism. Cambridge University Press, 2001. Jameson, Fredric. ‘Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’. New Left Review, 146, (53-92), 1991. Livingstone, M. Pop Art: A Continuing History, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. , 1990


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