Faeries In My Pond

Late Monet Pond Early 1900s

“It took some time to understand my water lilies. I painted them for pleasure; I cultivated them without thinking of painting them … A landscape does not permeate you in one day… And then, all of a sudden, I had a revelation, of faeries in my pond.  I took my palette … since then I have had no other model.” Claude Monet.

This Pond by Monet may very will be an unfinished painting. He generally liked to cover the canvas with paint. But here we get an inkling about the future of abstract painting and its relationship to landscape. What’s interesting is that the “unfinished” canvas opens the composition, unmoors it. This allows the painting process to float while implying that meaning won’t be found in the image. Monet is defining a different kind of painterly ambiguity. He challenges our certainty and our relationship to the painting. Impressionism had begun with the idea that process might define a picture, but this later work dispenses with the idea of a picture altogether. We must think our way through Monet’s visual construct and its material processes in order that we might understand the thing-in-itself. What’s left after the image breaks into pieces is Monet’s conceptual process.

“The child draws a landscape. His picture contains one or two objects only from the number before his eyes. These are the objects which strike him as important. So far, good. But there is no relation between them; they stand isolated on his paper, mere lumpish shapes. The Post- Impressionist, however, selects his objects with a view to expressing by their means the whole feeling of the landscape. His choice falls on elements which sum up the whole, not those which first attract immediate attention.” [Kandinsky on the Spiritual]

Monet Water Lillies 1919

Monet’s late work allows the process to dominate. The chalky paint strokes suggest not only the surface of the “water,” but the surface of the image, the surface of the support. The ground is both subject and object of the painting. Space, color, light, and air exist on the same plane causing the picture to collapse. Monet dispenses with illusion and narrative. And in their absence we must turn inward. Late Monet paintings are not easy – they define what’s been unresolved, what’s unreal or unfocused. We know that he’s built this paradise in his back yard, but he paints it as if it’s falling to pieces. Why? The water thickens. The air sinks. And the paint strokes stick and clot. This is a hard vision from an old man. And he leaves us to wonder – how do we understand and accept what we are seeing?

Red Queen

Joan Mitchell Untitled 1987 Sunflower

Landscapes are about light and space. They necessarily have to be. One marks the distance between things – front, middle and back – the space unfolds while the light reveals. And this two fold understanding of painting can be metaphorical. Once the Modernists grasped this concept landscape painting became the gateway to abstraction. One could make a picture purely through process – as long as it adhered to these two things. Think of it – pools of paint, fields of color or copses of brushstrokes – all made without images of the world. Ambiguity is the key – if something is unpainted – if the canvas is raw – is it open or closed, ground or sky? But something always gets in the way of this ambiguity. And you can see it in Joan Mitchell’s Sunflower above or Trees 1 below. She draws. This is a drawing made with paint. Even though the image is “abstract” Joan reaches out to the world, sees it, feels it and draws it. Drawing and gesture become the enemies of purity and lyricism. Joan is an Expressionist – caught right here, right now – in this imperfect moment. Beautiful.

“After Mitchell moved to France, she adapted two- and sometimes three-panel formats, because her studio spaces, first in Paris, and then even in Vétheuil, were always too small for her vision and for the newly required scale for serious painting. The “touch” was always there. If you think color is difficult to talk about, try writing about tactility. It is not just a way of putting down paint; it is not just texture. It can also include the way the weight of the paint moves. In Mitchell, touch is vision, is ocular, curiously resplendent. She admired van Gogh and it shows. He too confused light and texture and color in a kind of grand synesthesia. He was the first, I think, to do that. Later, Mitchell may have been the first to do that with abstraction. De Kooning had tactility; Pollock had grandeur. But Mitchell had color, tactility, and light.” [John Perrault on Joan Mitchell]

Joan Mitchell Trees 1 1990-91

By the mid-50s Clem Greenberg was waxing lyrical about the Impressionists in an attempt to promote his newly-minted Color Field painters. He had moved on from the 2nd Generation of AbEx gesture painters with a vengeance. He wanted a more bucolic kind of abstraction – more Barbizon in tone, more idyllic in structure. (According to Mitchell, she was “kicked out” of a gallery owned by Lawrence Rubin after Greenberg told the dealer, “Get rid of that gestural horror.”) [Peter Schjeldahl on Joan Mitchell] That’s about the time that Joan left for Paris, and later moved into a house just up the way from Monet’s. In New York Joan’s AbEx process painting had alluded to landscape. In France, especially in her later work – the paintings actually became landscapes.

Waiting for the Man

Picasso Paysage d’hiver – 1950

The story goes – Picasso came to visit the old man as he was convalescing and brought a few paintings to show. Matisse found this winter landscape to be interesting and asked Picasso if he could borrow it. It sat on his mantle for a few months, and when Picasso returned Matisse asked to make a trade for it. “Matisse’s offer to trade one of his works shifted the terms of the negotiations over Winter Landscape, so Matisse suggested that he keep the picture while he looked for one of his paintings that would be an appropriated exchange. The next time the two artists met, Picasso told Matisse he would like to trade his painting for one of the paintings Matisse had done between 1907 and 1920. In that case, Matisse responded, Picasso should give him a Cubist painting. This led to a particularly awkward stalemate, since it implied that each man thought the other had produced their best work years ago. After the conversation took this uncomfortable turn, they changed the subject. When Picasso left, Winter Landscape still remained on Matisse’s mantelpiece.” [Jack Flam Matisse and Picasso]

Picasso didn’t paint landscapes. And when he did, they always look figurative. Those two gnarly trees seem to be going at it for some reason. They look old – one older than the other. One seems to be propped up by a stake. Both are stripped of their leaves – bare, exposed. They argue. They bicker. They are waiting for spring. Waiting for the warmth and light. They are waiting for inspiration in the resting hills – waiting for rebirth. In the distance two dark houses sit empty – without life or light. And over there on the right – a dark palm tree god oversees the scene. Is he there to help or to harm? What does he want – so out of place in this scene? What – exactly – are these old trees waiting for?

Pablo Picasso The Reservoir, Horta de Ebro Horta de San Joan, summer 1909

Of course we all know the Modern history – Picasso and Braque began to understand how Cubism would work by painting landscapes. They would break down the picture plane, show the world from back to front and top to bottom all at once. They stole a page from Cezanne’s book and painted the world through “little cubes” of information – an early precursor to our pixelated universe. What isn’t widely known is that during this time both Picasso and Braque were taking photographs, hanging out at the picture shows and collecting postcards of people, landscapes and cultures from all over the world. Their Modern landscape would not only be a flat depiction of the world through process, it would also be inspired by the way machines of all kind had changed our perceptions of the world.

Pablo Picasso, Landscape, Horta de Ebro (The Reservoir). Summer 1909

Gateway to Abstraction

Max Beckmann Landscape Cannes 1934

Landscape is the gateway to Modernist abstraction. With the landscape one doesn’t have to worry about pesky issues of sex, desire, nudity or the human gaze – usually. Landscape doesn’t look back at us. It’s not conscious of others. In other words it’s pure ground, and that allows us to process it as a visual resource. We can use its structure to work the materials. In that way Landscape is the most open of subjects, and it can be whatever we like it to be. But that’s not how Max Beckmann saw landscapes. He made them seem strange, dramatic and compelling. There’s no “luxe calme et volupté” in these paintings. Cannes from 1934 is not so much a beautiful place for beautiful people as it is an official gateway or way station. Papers will have to be shown. Max must be sitting at a table because across the way is an empty chair – (someone’s left or didn’t show?). Maybe the companion has gone down that road to that blue paradise beyond. But to get to that paradise you have to pass those palms that look like an endless row of bureaucratic doric columns, their thick shadows filling the road ahead. Palm leaves explode overhead and sway with menace. Beckmann’s landscape isn’t about spirituality or ease. No. This landscape is about something else entirely…

Max Beckmann – Seascape with Agaves and Old Castle 1939

Max’s landscapes are heavy things. They’re alive with volume and heft. Those agaves with their spiky leaves and flowers are like swords. The rocks are thick and bulky – immovable. The tree branch sags beneath the weight of those slabs of sharpened leaves. Everything is weighted down under the light and air of the humid Cote d’Azur. Max can’t help himself, and he paints the landscape at war with the world around it. It’s 1939 and even here at the edge of Europe danger lurks everywhere. This isn’t Impressionism – the violet and yellow of Monet’s light and airy Mediterranean vacation landscapes. This is the other side of life on that coast – dark and dangerous. It’s a port for refugees, dissidents and escapees. The place to where one runs to get away. The place where one might find safety. But as Max paints it – there is no escape or safety. There are only the edges of things.

Uncertainty and Doubt

Carl Andre Uncarved Blocks 1970s

An artist, to achieve anything in art, has to finally do the thing that nobody else wants to do and nobody else has thought to do. I was inspired tremendously by Brancusi, but I never wanted to make a Brancusi… I think my work is very American because I’m American. But I found that Europeans like uncertainty and doubt. Look at the chaos of European history. Europeans cannot believe in certainty. But Americans believe in certainty. Americans think this can go on like this forever. Just as it is. No change. [Carl Andre in conversation with Barbara Rose]

Carl Andre is difficult. There’s nothing easy about this work, because for the most part we don’t know what it’s about. It eludes interpretation. When you see a full installation of Andre’s work it’s surprising how effective it can be. Its simplicity is breathtaking and its logic is beyond reproach. (And in the case of the wood blocks – it smells good.) But there’s always something working beneath the surface, and in this case what becomes apparent is the slippery nature of capital. This is not Art in the historical sense, but it’s a new Art in the economic sense. This is art that’s made for Global trade. It can be easily dismantled, placed on a container ship, moved to the next location and reassembled. It is an art for the WTO. It is an art of contracts, agreements and treaties. Andre may very well be the first purely Globalist artist. When his Equivalent VIII arrived in the UK in 1976 there were many Brexit-like discussions about the materials and the presentation of the work – all in relation to its value – as both art and material. And ironically these discussions conferred even more value onto the work as they foreshadowed many aesthetic and economic issues – some of which we are still dealing with in the NeoLiberal Economic World.

Carl Andre Uncarved Blocks 1975

“Wherever Andre was, he kept working. Andre has described himself as the first post-studio artist. He has never needed a studio, because the materials he works with—four-by-four timbers, bricks, one-foot-square metal plates, cut or natural stones, and other available hardware—are ordered from suppliers and assembled by Andre on the site. Andre does not carve, or model, or weld, or transform his materials. His great innovation was to assemble the elements of his simple, linear sculptures on the floor, without joining them together. Other contemporary sculptors had done away with pedestals and the vertical axis, but Andre’s reorientation of his work to the horizontal plane, where it functioned not as an object but, in his words, “as a place,” was more radical and more influential than anything being done by Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Dan Flavin, or the other minimalist artists in the nineteen-sixties.” [Calvin Tomkins on Carl Andre]

Consolidated Economic Support

Dan Flavin Untitled 1990

“I don’t know. I think the more private the public situation is the more likely an artist is to succeed. The more public the interest, the less likely. The more people partici­pate, the more inhibiting and de­structive compromise follows. If you come to the situation with a consoli­dated economic support and no public questions asked you’re better off. Everybody has an opinion about art and most of it is ignorance. The other aspect that really bothers me very much is how little art is al­lowed to integrate with architecture. Architects simply are not interested or they see themselves as Graves does: as a substitute artist. The sepa­ration is bewildering to me. Archi­tects will say back that artists won’t integrate their thinking. And, I think maybe often they’re correct in their understanding. But, the generosity is so rarely there – the invitation. In my experience, the engineers involved were ingenuous, or more open. If you get around the architect and politicians, you’re best off.” [Dan Flavin in conversation with Tiffany Bell]

I love these little gems left in interviews of our well known blue chippers. Once again we hear an artist advocating for a bit of Clem Greenberg’s golden umbilical. It’s also interesting that the binary choices for making art are either public money [where institutions must be placated and dealt with] or private money [where an artist is backed by silent partners]. But in our Neo-Liberal era private money has become more vocal. We live in the time of the activist investor – the majority shareholder who demands a seat on the board and a voice in the direction of the company – or else the money will be pulled and the stock depressed through market manipulations. Private money in the arts is more prevalent today, and this has had unforeseen implications in our own art economy – the rise of the activist collector. What we are seeing – more and more – is the artist and the activist collector “collaborating” in order to protect the collector’s investment.

Dan Flavin Untitled Marfa project 1996

“To ensure the work’s continuity, the Flavin estate contracted a custom fabricator to make hand-crafted copies of the bulbs, piecing together available components and matching the chemical composition of the phosphorescent film that gives each its color. Likewise, new fixtures are made to order using vintage templates rescued from the original factory… One factor in valuing a Flavin, however, dwarfs all others: the certificate that accompanied its production. To those who wonder what the difference is between a Flavin and the lights in their office, the certificate, more or less, is the answer. Each of the more than 750 light sculptures that Flavin designed — usually in editions of three or five — were listed on index cards and filed away. When one sold, the buyer received a certificate containing a diagram of the work, its title and the artist’s signature and stamp. If someone showed up with a certificate and a damaged fixture, Flavin would replace it. But without a certificate, the owner was out of luck. Today, Christie’s won’t even consider a Flavin sculpture unless it’s accompanied by an original document.” [Greg Allen on Dan Flavin]

Flavin had to develop an institution to create custom fabrications of outdated materials in order to maintain his work in perpetuity. What exactly does that say about the art, the artist and the artist’s intentions? Additionally in order to get one’s work serviced one is required to present a certification of provenance/investment (like a stock certificate). Basically this institution is a clearing house for the protection, preservation and upkeep of a very specific art investment. But this is by no means a unique situation. “Foundations” like this one have popped up around nearly every well known artist from the 20th Century, even a few who are still alive and kicking.
So when you plug in the antiquated Flavin are you burning the investment? What is the cost of the aesthetic pleasure of the light or is the fixture itself just as pleasing? How intertwined are the aesthetics and the COI per lumen? What does a “new” bulb cost and is that also considered a piece of art? Does that play a part in the aesthetic enjoyment? In other words how does one value this ephemeral moment when Flavin himself said that these pieces were not meant to last? [interesting discussion here]

Well Done and Permanent

Donald Judd MultiColored Works Installation 2013

“The installation of my work and of others is contemporary with its creation. The work is not disembodied spatially, socially, temporally, as in most museums. The space surrounding my work is crucial to it: as much thought has gone into the installation as into a piece itself. The installations in New York and Marfa are a standard for the installation of my work elsewhere. My work and that of others is often exhibited badly and always for short periods. Somewhere there has to be a place where the installation is well done and permanent. This obviously implies that museums are inadequate for their job. My installations and architecture are very much in defense of my work. Visual, spatial art cannot be reduced to performance.” [Donald Judd In Defense of My Work]

Judd’s idea of installation as a complete work of art is interesting, but the permanent complete installation is also defined as something which museums are inadequately equipped to collect and present. So where to turn? Private Investment. Enter the de Menil’s and their foundations. Judd’s complete installations involve architecture, real estate and massive amounts of upkeep all of which implies a significant investment of time and money. Judd’s work also requires the belief of his investors. I say this because his work is extremely specific and requires acquiescence and surrender on the part of the audience. These practicalities formed around Judd’s idea point to the fact that permanent complete installations are conceived, produced and presented mainly through capital – plans, proposals, budgets, builders, fabricators, etc. – and is an art form necessarily encompassing economics as a feature of its aesthetics. In the 60s and 70s this was a new and provocative idea.

Donald Judd Prints Installation 2015

“One of the many destructive assumptions now is that all ideas have no originators; they are mutations in the public domain. The use and meaning of the ideas are vague. But someone invents ideas. Someone wants something new. In its invention an idea is clear and in its diffusion it is vague. This is easy to see. It’s easy to see that Chamberlain invented Stella’s reliefs. A new idea is quickly debased, often before the originator has time and money to continue it. In general I think this has happened to all of my work, but especially to the use of the whole room, which is now called an installation, which basically I began… but many artists degrade the idea [of installation], for example Barbara Kruger, who is my favorite, because she also degrades red and black. Again there is no discussion and criticism of works which occupy rooms, which is a reason why it is possible to have bland and trite work, with one or two meager and obvious ideas spread over a whole room, usually in writing, without space, which is after all the origin of the form.” [Donald Judd Some Aspects of Color]

What’s The Procedure?

Bruce Nauman, Sex and Death by Murder and Suicide, 1985

There is a tendency to clutter things up, to try to make sure people know something is art, when all that’s necessary is to present it, to leave it alone. I think the hardest thing to do is to present an idea in the most straightforward way.
What I tend to do is see something, then remake it and remake it and remake it and try every possible way of remaking it. If I’m persistent enough, I get back to where I started. I think it was Jasper Johns who said, “Sometimes it’s necessary to state the obvious.”
Still, how to proceed is always the mystery. I remember at one point thinking that some day I would figure out how you do this, how you do art—like, “What’s the procedure here, folks?”—and then it wouldn’t be such a struggle anymore. Later, I realized it was never going to be like that, it was always going to be a struggle. I realized I would never have a specific process; I would have to re-invent it, over and over again. That was really depressing.
After all, it was hard work; it was a painful struggle and tough. I didn’t want to have to go through all that every time. But of course you do have to continually rediscover and re-decide, and it’s awful. It’s just an awful thing to have to do.
On the other hand, that’s what’s interesting about making art, and why it’s worth doing: it’s never going to be the same, there is no method. If I stop and try to look at how I got the last piece done, it doesn’t help me with the next one. [Joan Simon in Conversation with Bruce Nauman]

Ok, I thought I’d throw this out there. Conceptual or Concept-Lite Artists love neon just as much as painters love canvas and paint. From Nauman to Merz, from Kosuth to Ligon, from Kruger to Weatherford, and goodness me, a whole slew of other deep thinkers use neon to jazz up a pithy bit of text with some roadside signage. These flashy lights can look great in a moody space usually decked out with black or graphite painted walls. I am not immune to their charm. But it seems to me that for all the brave talk from Conceptual Artists about theoretical ideas and process and medium, these artists have set up a whole cottage industry of manufactured neon products. Why? Because the punters love this stuff installed in their upscale renovated loft spaces. Basically this stuff sells and conceptual artists can make series of them so that 10 or 15 collectors can all purchase the exact same piece. It seems to me that we all become merchants at some point in our careers.

Joseph Kosuth Amnesia: Various, Luminous, Fixed installation 2014

“Painting can get away with it because of the conservatives of the art market and the fact that external aspects are saying “this is art” – it’s not the artist who’s saying “this is art”. The market is the most conservative dynamic. The painting by a 21-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat can sell for more than $100m, sell for more than a Warhol, someone who had a massive impact on art history, when Jean-Michel virtually had none – it’s only within the context of millionaire collectors that he has a cultural life.
We have to face the fact that we had art history: who did what, when; who had an impact on the history of ideas in art, and so on. Then, around 20 years ago, we had a competing art history which was a history of the art market, with mostly derivative artists, but they do it on canvas and that’s appropriate for what they’re trying to do. And as long as it’s on canvas and they can call it a painting, it can be in the billionaire trophy competition. It’s not really very serious; the money’s serious – but the people aren’t. These are all questions that Duchamp raised at the Armory show all those years ago.”[Joseph Kosuth in conversation with Angeria Rigamonti di Cutó]

Joseph is right about the market and the institution of a competing art history. Over the last 30 years painting has become a pure economic product, and the philosophic focus behind painting is about that very economics. But in all fairness this art economy is not just about painting, but about the entire “art industry” itself. Conceptual art is sold in the very same market place. It’s valued by the same economic mechanisms. And it exists in and for the same economic center. And to try to create a philosophic difference between mediums is just bad faith. Duchamp may have raised these questions all those years ago, but he never gave us answers to those questions. Nor have his many followers answered these questions, because like any ambitious artists, they must create markets for their work. So what is the procedure?

Value As Decoration

Joseph Kosuth One and Three Chairs 1965

“It is necessary to separate aesthetics from art because aesthetics deals with opinions on perception of the world in general. In the past one of the two prongs of art’s function was its value as decoration. So any branch of philosophy which dealt with ‘beauty’ and thus, taste, was inevitably duty bound to discuss art as well. Out of this ‘habit’ grew the notion that there was a conceptual connection between art and aesthetics, which is not true. This idea never drastically conflicted with artistic considerations before recent times, not only because the morphological characteristics of art perpetuated the continuity of this error, but as well, because the apparent other ‘functions’ of art (depiction of religious themes, portraiture of aristocrats. detailing of architecture. etc.) used art to cover up art….”

“Aesthetic considerations are indeed always extraneous to an object’s function or ‘reason to be’. Unless of course, that object’s ‘reason to be’ is strictly aesthetic. An example of a purely aesthetic object is a decorative object, for decoration’s primary function is ‘to add something to, so as to make more attractive; adorn; ornament’, and this relates directly to taste. And this leads us directly to ‘Formalist’ art and criticism. Formalist art (painting and sculpture) is the vanguard of decoration, and, strictly speaking, one could reasonably assert that its art condition is so minimal that for all functional purposes it is not art at all, but pure exercises in aesthetics. Above all things Clement Greenberg is the critic of taste. Behind every one of his decisions is an aesthetic judgement, with those judgements reflecting his taste. And what does his taste reflect? The period he grew up in as a critic, the period ‘real’ for him: the fifties.” [Joseph Kosuth Art After Philosophy]

Joseph Kosuth Neon 1965

What is taste? Or decoration? Or art for that matter? When we mine the past for style what do we do to the meanings of the art we mine? Joseph Kosuth makes the case that Formalist Art can only be decoration. And this is something that he says isn’t art. I think there’s an irony at play here in that his brand of conceptualism [art] seems to me to be excessively tasteful, and dare I say, highly decorative as well. I guess we all ( NY art types dressed in black) fall into the trap – one’s own taste. So where’s the line between art and decoration? Can we have both at once? And on a more practical note – how does one keep an audience’s attention? How does one manufacture sellable philosophy? What will the institutional classes fund and what will the collector classes purchase? Difficult questions all. But this last one is fairly simple – Are there aesthetic decisions being made regarding installation, presentation, materials, processes and production in Joseph’s work? Probably.

Joseph Kosuth Rosetta Stone 2006

“Art ‘lives’ through influencing other art, not by existing as the physical residue of an artist’s ideas. The reason why different artists from the past are ‘brought alive’ again is because some aspect of their work becomes ‘useable’ by living artists. That there is no ‘truth’ as to what art is seems quite unrealized.” [Joseph Kosuth AAP]

There are many painters making work today that naturally understand this particular distinction. If one is stripping style away from context then one accepts the history of painting and formalism wholly and without question. The “High Times Hard Times” Abstract Mannerists didn’t have this luxury, and developed a specific critique of 50s and 60s formalist painting. But this era’s painters no longer deal with the idea of critique or philosophy – instead they accept that in this Post Avant Garde Neo-Liberal era art/painting is a pure economic object. Since we live in a Post-Historical Era all art exists in the past – as decorative objects – even and including the painting/object you finished last night. This puts an artist’s attention on style and aesthetics. Contemporary artists aren’t interested in the “physical residue of an artist’s ideas”. We are interested in capturing and branding the aesthetic functions of art’s past. Our practical concerns come After Philosophy, and it’s the re-creation of past art that satisfies our era’s desire for aesthetically pleasing art objects.

The Eclipse of Picasso

Christopher Wool Fuckem 1992

Every time I pick up a brush or a piece of charcoal or a pencil I am dealing with nostalgia – my own nostalgia and my culture’s nostalgia. This almost unbearable situation is inherent in these tools – first developed 600 years ago. These mediums and techniques are anachronisms, and I must work my way through the past whether I want to or not.

Post War abstraction is filled with work trying to confront and redefine the processes of painting. And this is part of the reason why so many of the 70s Abstract Mannerists turned their critique directly onto Late Modern process. In the era of painting is dead these artists wanted to revive and extend the life of painting. But there is a price for such a thing. Basically, what was formed with the 70s critique of Post War Abstraction was an unbreakable time loop of painting from the 50s and 60s. And that’s a Ground Hog Day kind of problem.

One only has to look at Christopher Wool’s devastating and angry paintings above and below to understand how distressing such a thing can be – like a bad relationship. The fun part of these works is to discover who, exactly, these paintings are addressing – they, ’em and fool. The harder part is to understand how this critique of painting works and why.

At the time of the postmodernist crisis of the 197os, three things happened to make it irrefutable that the specific medium [oil on canvas, line on paper, etc.] had fallen onto the trash heap of history. The first was postminimalism and its rejection of the minimalist literal object – the boxes, the slabs, the fluorescent tubes – as so many things to be bought and sold. In 1973 Lucy Lippard called this collective dismissal “the dematerialization of the art object,” pointing to ephemeral works such as pencil marks on walls as the fragile alternative. The second thing was conceptual art and its declaration that the object was now supplanted by the dictionary definition of art as such – the idea art transcending the dispersal of separate mediums; thus, art-as-such dispenses with Jean-Luc Nancy’s conception of the muses as “several and not just one.” The third was Duchamp’s eclipse of Picasso as the most important artist of the century. Duchamp had invented the readymade, or the objects he merely bought, signed, and then installed inside museums. Conceptual art saw this intervention as the naked definition of the object’s aesthetic status and made Duchamp its god. As art became “idea,” the medium vanished; it washed away. The three things opened our age onto what must be called the post-medium condition, rhyming with Walter Benjamin’s reference to “the age of mechanical reproduction.” But by the mid-7os some artists began to reject the three things. To do this, each appropriated a technical support and used it to “invent” a medium. [Rosalind Krauss Under Blue Cup]

Christopher Wool Blue Fool 1990

Most of the painting we see today is resurrected painting – but most of it isn’t being resurrected for its critique or theoretics – it’s being resurrected for its style. Painting as we know it can no longer innovate as Modernist Abstraction. It can not open new space or new light – there’s nothing more to be discovered in the long tail of Modern painting. Abstract painting today is about how well made it is [professional], which precedent is being used [lineage] and how stylish and or handsome [decorative] the work is. Most of this painting relies on a misunderstanding of appropriation and/or it fails to create its own critique of Modern era critique. Look, I’m not saying our era’s paintings/works can’t be tasty delicious to look at, because some of them are, and I am steeped in and primed for a trip into well done painting nostalgia. But very little of this kind of work actually deals with new theoretical ideas or unique visual ideas about the life we are living NOW. So I guess the simple question is does painting have to? And the harder one would be if painting tries to do so would it just just look like some feckless old geezer ranting at the kids playing on her/his lawn?