Many of the themes and ideas we’ve been going over in the last year have a lot in common with the show Painters Reply at Lisson Gallery which just closed. So let’s have a bit of a recap and a look at some of the thoughts and ideas flying around at the time.
“Painters Reply, curated by Alex Glauber and Alex Logsdail, aims to answer the Artforum questionnaire through an exploration of experimental painting practices starting in the 1970s and continuing to the present moment. The selected artists reveal how the pervasive antipathy towards painting perhaps afforded a greater degree of latitude whereby materiality, application, atypical support, performative impulse and format were all of a sudden in play. The exhibition brings together a diverse group of artists, including some of those published in Artforum’s responses to the questionnaire such as Joan Snyder and Dona Nelson, where the common denominator is aesthetic emancipation.” [Lisson Gallery – Painters Reply: Experimental Painting in the 1970s and now 2019]
In a brief artist’s statement for the catalogue accompanying the 2006 exhibition “High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967-1975,” Roy Colmer (1935-2014) mentioned video feedback no less than three times. Colmer’s exploration of this process––whereby a video camera is trained on its playback monitor, producing ever-receding self-replicas––introduced to his painting practice a set of behaviors and effects, like movement, time, and delay, from outside the medium’s usual purview. His line of inquiry seems to have concerned cross-pollination among mediums: how could television monitors and video cameras point abstract painting––regarded as outdated and conceptually bankrupt by the early 1970s––in a fresh direction?
…For each painting, Colmer wholly covered a canvas with horizontal spray-painted lines of equal width in alternating colors, and then spray-painted either side of the composition with a highly saturated or dusky hue, partially obscuring the stripes and leaving a glowing, irregular mandorla form at center. Despite the circumscribed set of parameters, there are significant variations in the paintings, which evoke patterns and effects of analog electronic media, including those that arise when the transmission of images and sound is interrupted by static and noise. Some of Colmer’s stripes are not quite straight, and some, by way of minuscule snarls of acrylic, bleed into those below them. In certain works, the slight misalignment of masking tape during his multiple stages of paint application resulted in slivers of underpainting that peek out from the stripes’ edges, such as threads of maroon and yellow glimpsed between carnation pink and ocean blue in Untitled #49 (1970). Works like Untitled #112 (1972) bear stripes of contrasting colors at their tops and bottoms that lend the compositions an uneven visual weight and produce a sense of vertical scrolling, as if the bands are forever cycling upward or downward over the central motif, enhancing the images’ allusion to the horizontal registers of static that appear on tube televisions when they lack reception. The paintings also conjure another visual characteristic of such TVs: the luminous flash of an image sucked into a downward vortex when the boxy machines are switched off. [Elizabeth Buhe on Roy Colmer]
“The Woosters employ an unusual rectangular theme that extends into a triangular hinge on the left side. These works were both drawn in graphite and painted in black and white (and, later in silver). At the outset (1978), it seemed that few observers were aware of Stamm’s discovery of this rather obtuse form. Given the analytical orientation of the times, many assumed it was based on some complex mathematical derivation; but, in fact, it was quite the opposite. Stamm, being a man of the streets, with bicycle in tow, discovered this abbreviated form one day on the sidewalk near his loft. The fact that he could not decipher its use or origin piqued his curiosity enough to accept it as what might be called an unknown readymade.
The exhibition catches both the artist’s consistency as well as his complex reprieve from an all-over spatial reduction, replacing it with a series of modular variations. Examples of this would include 78 W – 4 (Wooster) and 78 SW – 22 (Small Wooster) (both oil on canvas from 1978). The difference between the two is not only the shift in scale in relation to identical forms, but also the enclosure of the black band that moves around the edge of otherwise white paintings. In the first, larger version, the band descends from the upper side and follows along the upper diagonal slide of the triangle before it extends back along the bottom edge. The second, smaller form carries the exact same proportions except that the black band completely encloses the white surface, which makes the interior shape a smaller version of the larger one that extends outside the black frame.” [Robert C. Morgan on Ted Stamm]