First of all, it is pleasing to see the work of an artist who differs slightly from the excess of male representatives in art and who can bring dimensions of aesthetic feeling with her, which at this point in history like a gift, like a recovery from the usual An often ugly or stupid modernity can be felt.
The work of Rebecca LittleJohn differs fundamentally from the conservative attitude, which dates back to the middle of the 20th century, of those painters who today celebrate triumphs in auction houses because, leaving creativity and invention behind, they always produce the same image and the naive or provide undemanding viewers with a signature style that consists of repeated and repeatable elements - stripes, squares, rectangles, clusters of paint, circles, etc. - sprung from the limited idea of a designer for fabric samples, varies only in the size of the canvas, the bigger the better, for the sublime is said to sublime itself in the size of the canvas like a mysterious event of nature with which the painter tries to convince, even if the content is nothing more than a banal combination of geometric elements.
Nothing contradicts the natural idea of creativity more than the principle of repetition. Even an admirer of Kierkegaard must ask himself why a painter should always produce the same image in order to be a craftsman of a single idea. Stylistic continuity is not expressed in the repeated use of a content (pattern), but in the continuity of emotions that result from the use of pictorial parameters such as space, line, point, surface, contrast, symmetry, etc. Nietzsche spoke out against repetition because he saw creative people as skeptics who do not rely on a single idea, but try to advance into further dimensions of consciousness.
Rebecca LittleJohn's pictures are inventions, each invention a unity in itself without questioning the totality of the oeuvre, without allowing a single appearance to separate from the wholeness of the aesthetic setting, without denying the emotions on which the life of the people Artist is aesthetically structured without prescribing an excess to a single parameter and determining the visual appearance of the subsequent work in its freedom. And what we see is surprising. It is surprising because it is new, or say, within the development of contemporary art
we, is different because each work interpretatively reinforces the canon of stylistic continuity and illuminates the truth of the emotion at different stages of the oeuvre.
Of course, there are visual features in her work that not only articulate the individual picture with aesthetic logic, but also quite obviously run through the entire oeuvre, which extends over three decades, from the large-format abstractions of the eighties to the minimalist period at the end of the 20th century and the more open and associatively loaded images of recent years. From the very beginning it has been shown that her work is aimed at expanding the principles established in modern painting. The freedom to swing back and forth between different degrees of abstraction became apparent early on, so that the possibility of including associatively burdened factual content appeared as if by itself. In today's postmodern period, painting easily moves between different degrees of abstraction, without claiming the need for a particular idea in the hierarchy of aesthetic ideas.
The most striking element of her paintings is the line. Lines appear as autonomous elements in a slightly illusionistic space, they articulate the entirety of the composition with ramifications in all directions, tangential and lateral, they nestle against the contour of an object without losing themselves in it associatively, they always make themselves noticeable as independent even when it comes to depicting a naked body or a flower. Rebecca's painting is at the same time an art of drawing burdened by the high tones of a lyrical sensitivity, which transcends the dimensions of the purely formal and the purely narrative, because the lyrical does not result from rational operations but from empathy with the vibrating gesture of the line in the pictorial space.
Whatever one can say about the work of an artist in general eludes the immediate apperception of aesthetic givens and has to be content with a language that cannot reach the sensual and can only exist in the conceptual and in the context of other works. Excluded from direct perception, the work remains just an idea in the chronology of art. This chronology is nothing new to Rebecca LittleJohn. She grew up in Japan between the ages of six and twelve, and its culture has left an unforgettable impression on her to this day. Her studies at American universities focused on literature and the fine arts, brief acquaintance with philosophy at Harvard University, and concentration on the history of modern art at Hunter College in New York. Although her artistic activity mainly takes place in upstate New York and Texas, her connection with Austria is not new, as she taught several times at the Weinviertel Culture Weeks and has since had a group of artists as friends who visit each other annually and give her away to speak also as an Austrian artist. In fact, in the postmodern period, it is no longer common for a cultural worker to identify with the tradition of a city or country, because globalization has in the last three decades caused aesthetic values to spread all over the world because they come from the strength of the individual who feels responsible for the universal value of art.
In philosophical circles it has become customary in recent years to play with thoughts about the end of a linear art history, because the lateral spread of a pluralistic phenomenology has largely left the traditional ontological and teleological criteria of aesthetic judgment behind, in favor of others, mainly arbitrary to be replaced by psychological reactions of the viewer to works of art and to let the value of aesthetic products sink in the purchase value, which clearly brings to light the poverty of the fine arts in a civilization oriented towards capital. Such thoughts come to us when looking at a worn-out academic constructivism that defines the contemporary marketplace through the use of apparently modern geometry.
In comparison, it is refreshing to see the work of Rebecca LittleJohn, which shows no signs of fatigue and has not lost faith in high culture and eternity. Rebecca has not given up the weight of the story, the wonderful works with which every ambitious painter has to compare himself, but she is from the story itself and the demands of the times are not inhibited to go their own way, which sometimes only softly reminds of Japanese woodcuts, especially Utamaro or the poetry of Odilon Redon. She has the freedom to enter a large number of pictorial means in her art - line, point, surface, space, etc. and their various effects on each other, with each other, against each other, just as painting is allowed to move freely to wherever the intensity of the expression comes into its own.
Because there is no contemporary style that can be determined by a Wölfflin formula (2), the boundaries of art history are only expanded through individual achievements, without falling into arbitrary subjectivity through the loss of a collective agenda. Rebecca LittleJohn has not lost the belief in aesthetic prepositions as the barometer for the fever of the time with which the value of her work can be measured and knows the limits of creative freedom, which are responsible for ensuring that the work is made from the highest claims of truth and quality is created.
Ultimately, it must be said that Rebecca's art has carved out a place for itself in my body and soul so intensely that it is impossible to imagine this type of painting out of the repertoire of my thinking about art and especially about the development and meaning of abstract art. When the large-format Rosebush painting was first exhibited in New York in 1985, I knew immediately that it was one of the most beautiful and most important works of contemporary art and that the entire chronology of abstraction from Kandinsky to Jackson Pollock, Miró and Stella was in mine put in a happy light his personal idea of the course of history. Now it is one of those works that appear again and again in my imagination and belongs to the ranks of those artists whose sensitivity is somehow related to my own and was partially strengthened by personal friendship: Antoni Tapies, Eva Hesse, Harvey Quaytman, Titus-Carmel, Helga Philipp, Gerhard Gutruf, Eduardo Chillida, Robert Mangold, Anselm Kiefer, Joseph Beuys, Gotthard Fellerer. The Rosebush picture was admired by many of my friends and it struck me as strange that it didn't end up in a big museum straight away, but as it stands in the world, a career, almost every career, is at the mercy of the fortunes that somehow arise results from the interplay of the clouds and leaves it up to the works to decide where and when to find a place of honor. In “Rosebush” we see a painting that does not have to run behind the phenomena of reality in order to be criticized by Plato and Hegel, but rather it shows the wonderful possibility of depicting something that relates to the essence of things and the picture itself in the immediacy of an object that is the Rosebush itself.
In our time of phenomenology it has become meaningless to differentiate between abstraction and realism and to derive criteria of aesthetic value or historical novelty from this distinction, as was common in art criticism of the 20th century, because today it is no longer about ontological Questions about originality and the moral concepts associated with it, but about the direct effect of a commodity appearing on the art market. Whatever one may think about amateurs, charlatans and their admirers in the art world, we have not lost faith in art and in artists, because it is in the artist's soul not to be satisfied with what has been found, but to continue go to improve and renew until we have arrived at the 9th symphony in which we combine knowledge, feeling and the hereafter. The renewed inclusion of realistic elements in the painting of Rebecca LittleJohn is not a look back into the past art of illustration but a refreshing spice of abstract art, which has long waited for the revival of subjective courage and allows painting to give insights into the deepest emotions of the artist. In this respect, her work is a historical document of the philosophical and aesthetic problems of our time and will retain its importance well into the future.
1. An excellent study of the Viennese salons from the 18th to the middle of the 20th century: Helga Peham “Die Salonièren und die Salons in Wien”, styria. Vienna. Graz. 2014
2. Heinrich Wölfflin “Principles of Art History”, New York. 1950