Absolutely Abstract?

by Alden Cole on March 19, 2014 · 0 comments

PrismaColor pencils on black color-aid paper, 13.5″ x 10″ • collection of the artist S

AbstractWP1962-63. In addition to 9 hours of Life Drawing per week, plus 3 hours of Calligraphy and 3 hours of Nature Drawing, Freshman Foundation included 3 hours of Perspective Drawing, plus 6 hours per week of both 2-Dimenisonal Design and 3-Dimensional Design, for a total of 30 hours of studio classes. Added to that were another 6 hours of liberal arts: 3 of Art History, 3 of English. At least this is what I’ve been able to dredge up from memory, but without confirmation from RISD friends just yet who may remember better than I do. However I do remember that my least favorite class of all was 2-Dimensional Design. Can’t remember the teacher’s name anymore although I can still see his face relatively well considering that our only interactions extended from September ’62 to May ’63; and to my knowledge I never saw him thereafter. But he wasn’t the reason I didn’t like the class. My problem was lack of confidence, lack of feeling comfortable with the abilities I had. Shortly after arriving at RISD I was thoroughly humbled by the skill levels of my classmates. Almost all of them had participated in high school art courses, or had taken private drawing or painting lessons. I felt very out of my league, away from my usual comfort zones. I felt a definite challenge to fit in and make my own way. I hung in, more from not wanting to admit defeat to family and friends back home who were perhaps a bit mystified by my change of plans from math to art, than from any great personal commitment on my part to being an artist. I simply needed to prove myself. The true stress of the 2-D class for me was not the teacher, it was ‘crit’ time, when we’d bring in our assigned projects, hang them up on the wall for everyone to look at, then criticize in a subjective free-for-all of comments like: “That composition is lifeless…” “Those colors really suck…” “Why did you make the choice to do that rather than something else?” My already tenuous grip on self-confidence dreaded these crits. It was the early 60s, the emphasis was on the abstract, and the expressionistic. Representational work was definitely considered démodé among forward-looking artists it seemed. I tried to comply, but very unsuccessfully in my estimation. Of all the work created for my 2-D class freshman year, todays featured art is the sole survivor; which tells me that I really didn’t have very high regard for the other pieces created for that class. They are so long gone I can’t even conjure an image of what any of them looked like. This one piece is it, and in my estimation ‘no great shakes’…

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