Each week in Art Vocabulary we take a letter and explain a few art terms that begin with it, sharing with you the meaning of those words, giving examples and interesting case stories. If you like to discover the art world from A to Z, feel free to join us.
Jack the jailbird jacked a jeep. Have you twisted your tongue by trying to say this? Better pay attention to the art letter of this week! So, what words start from J?
Junk Art — art movement that calls for use of any materials in works including trash and “found” materials. It arose in the mid-50s as a kind of protest against the selected and thus excessive consumption of stuff, in particular, in the sphere of fine arts. Richard Rauschenberg (not to be confused with Robert Rauschenberg) is supposed to be a pioneer of the movement ex post along with the art critic Lawrence Alloway who coined the expression of junk art. Naturally, it didn’t emerge all of a sudden — the idea of the movement was shaped under the influence of dadaism that took aback this world at the beginning of the 20th century. Just look at the readymades, ‘Fountain’ (1917) and ‘Bicycle Wheel’ (1913) by Marcel Duchamp or ‘Merzbau’ by Kurt Schwitters, you will certainly see a kind of analogy between dada and junk art. Of course, trash art (as it is also called) had its adherents, not necessarily direct ones — some painters implemented the anti-snobbish concept of junk art into their practice. Quite a few postmodernist artists led by famous Joseph Boyce discussed using inappropriate materials while creating an artwork, thus extending boundaries of what can be art broadly. One of the latest well-known junk art followers were Young British Artists (YBA) such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.
Japanism(e) — study of Japanese culture and tradition and deep interest for it. Until the middle of the 19th century, Europeans didn’t pay much attention to Asian Arts, aside from some subject matter experts. However, everything changed when American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler who was mainly working in Britain started adopting compositional aspects from the Japanese paintings in his works. You see, it is composition and brightness of colours that attracted the European painter, not objects or decorative elements. No surprise that Whistler didn’t bring Japanese painting into vogue immediately as his contemporaries mostly couldn’t share his enthusiasm with it. Still and all, things were moving. Such modernists as Gustav Klimt, Vincent Van Gogh and Edgar Degas willingly referred to Japanese approaches while creating artworks. That not only looked progressive but also contributed greatly to the development of Impressionism. Probably the most influential Japanese movement was ukiyo-e, the art of woodblock printing and painting. Thanks to ukiyo-e, expressive colours and asymmetrical compositions found their place in European Art.
Jasper Johns — famous American artist whose works are associated with pop art, abstract expressionism, minimalism and neo dada at once. Jasper Johns enters the top 10 most expensive living American artists. Born in Augusta, Georgia (US) in 1930, young Jasper strived for creating something new, though just like other people in his home area he had no idea what’s like to become an artist. Later Jasper Johns recalled: “I thought it (being an artist) meant that I would be in a situation different from the one that I was in”. Having studied three semesters at University of South Carolina, Johns moved to NY to continue his studies at the Parsons School of Design — here in New York he would meet his artistic partner and lover Robert Rauschenberg in 1954. Jasper Johns was strongly influenced by Rauschenberg who had been already exhibiting by the time they met and other prominent couple, duo of a choreographer and a composer (Merce Cunningham + John Cage). Strictly speaking, the artist’s career set off with his first solo show at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1958. Five years later Johns established Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts in New York together with the composer John Cage. The distinctive feature of Jasper Johns works is active use of conventional precise objects such as numbers, targets and specially flags. Johns mainly used popular images just like pop-artists, played with irony and opposites (truly Dada’s kid) but always retained a right after works to stay an object per se which was considered to be primarily sufficient.
Alexej von Jawlensky — Russian expressionist who mainly worked in Germany. Born in a small town of the Tver Governorate in the family of five children, Alexej was lucky to move to Moscow at the age of 10. Living in the capital, the young man started falling for arts and went on studying at the Saint Petersburg Arts Academy from 1889 to 1896 where he came to know more people from the artistic circles, in particular, artists Ilya Repin and Marianne von Werefkin. Continuing his art studies in Munich at the classes of Anton Azˇbé, the artist met Wassily Kandinsky, one of his future artistic partners. Thus, having visited France in 1905 and admired the modernist masterpieces of Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh and Henri Matisse, Alexej von Jawlensky came back to Germany and started collaborating. Together with the above mentioned Wassily Kandinsky, Marianne von Werefkin and other expressionist Gabriele Münter, Jawlensky established the Neue Künstlervereinigung in 1909. Three years later the artist joined The Blue Rider Group (Der Blaue Reiter) that discussed theosophic basis of art as well as the musical sense of colour. During the First World War Alexej von Jawlensky had to emigrate to Switzerland, Wiesbaden but that wouldn’t stop his artistic activities. In cooperation with Galka Scheyer, Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger and Wassily Kandinsky, Jawlensky founded the Blue Four Group (Die Blaue Vier) in 1924 that represented Bauhaus aesthetics and exhibited massively across Europe and US.
Text /Julia Kryshevich/