chapter  24
11 Pages

Formed Expression

WithDavid Henley

In this chapter, David Henley explores Edith Kramer’s signature concept: that of formed expression. This tenet refers to art expressions that are “fully formed,” and indicative as sublimations. Summarized, art must “evoke emotion”; art must also display “inner consistency,” meaning the artist is being true to oneself, and art must possess an “economy of means.” Henley sparred with Kramer in his first paper as a graduate student when he presented provocative imagery, such as the Zen-inspired ink painting by Mu Ch’i. Unfamiliar with this art form, Kramer struggled to fit the concept into her lexicon. Another image came after planning for a plenary presentation when Henley wanted to include the Nazi propaganda work of Leni Riefenstahl. The last vignette examines images from Kramer’s own youth, consisting of a book of pen and ink drawings depicting the French Revolution, which she created as a 15 year old. In each instance, formed expression required a reshuffling of the concept, resulting in spirited banter and debate between the master and her pupil.