Barnett Newman: Discussion on 'The First Man was an Artist' in relation to Newman's own Work as an Artist
By: Olivia DeMilta
Okay, so this post is going to be a big shorter than the other last two posts, but nonetheless its interesting. I found the article about Barnett Newman’s (1905-1970) ‘The First Man Was an Artist’ to be fulfilling in the sense that not always is science the right way of thinking or finding knowledge or evening excelling out of life. We are all meant to do one thing on this earth, and that is to live our life. Living is a dream in some eyes, to others is may be a dredge, but in so much of this matter, Newman speaks his view that the fall of man came from no other than the artist. That the earliest writings of human history (Book of Genesis) was not that of a social life, but one of the individual self living in a world much like that described in a dream. In the Garden of Eden, Newman sees the fall of man as not one like the religionists would have us believe, but rather that Adam, by eating from the tree of knowledge, “sought the creative life to be.”
I think this idea is interesting because Newman is one of an abstract expressionist painter, an "artist" whose work hangs in galleries and museums. And why? Because he paints, but more so because he's invited us into a new perspective on art. Newman’s theory about the fall of man is reflective of his work. When one sees his work, we see variations of color fields (wiki), wide and large dimensions of canvas, and different sorts of painting line and shape. But beside these various arrangements of paint, we feel something different than ordinary work prior to Newman's. We fall into his image a bit differently because of how different it is and it creates for some of us ideas about existence and humankind, and especially the individual (like how he discusses the individual vs the social). This artistic expression is that of an aesthetic one. That much like his first dream, this aesthetic experience is no more than that. Just like man’s first outcry was a “poetic outcry” rather than a “demand for communication.”
Newman is telling us, that we don’t need to paint like anyone or anything. We simply are born this way. His use of painting is not about technique, nor subjectivity. His concept is that artists have no boundaries and art is one of an aesthetic experience. This is something I like very much, as an artist myself. Bringing this Modern ideas into existence, postmodern art is influenced greatly from it. Thanks Newman!