Whether it be writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, or photographers, artists all over the world have striven to show people their views of the world, of people, and even of the universe itself. Throughout history the creative urge of man to present to fellow men a different perspective or representation of life-or even the afterlife-has surfaced time and time again in the form of artwork. Sometimes it comes through genius and complexity, full of meaning and symbolism. Others, it is simple and void of any clear meaning at all other than that it is art. Soon, however, there became a point when the work of art was no longer something one could just look at and understand; the principle of the matter had changed. Art leapt from viewable understanding straight into the Modern movement where theory became art, and to understand it, one must know the theory it is based upon. Never was this more apparent than in the artwork of the abstract expressionist. Essentially, artwork is not art because of theory, and art based on theory cannot be creative or truly said to be art.
To understand all of this, from the beginning, one must begin with the Word. That is to say, one must start with the understanding of the theory, what became known as the painted Word, behind Modern art between 1945 and 1975. Probably the clearest and easiest to understand explanation of these theories and how they progressed through Modern Art history has been written by Tom Wolfe in a book cleverly titled The Painted Word. Wolfe has written several other books including From Bauhaus to Our House and The Bonfire of the Vanities. Within the pages of The Painted Word one finds a brilliant explanation of Modern Art and the theories it is based upon as well as a summary of the most influential critics and artists of the time. In order to contemplate why Modern Art is not truly what one would call art, exploration of the Word and how it developed is an absolute necessity.