“[Twombly] and Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns perform, in their eyes, a sublation of Action Painting, canceling its abstract insularity but preserving its emotional intensity, and thus continuing an art of expressiveness, revealing therein Abstract Expressionism’s own proclivities toward representation, toward landscape (Jackson Pollock), toward the body (Willem de Kooning).
But this, I would say, is a massive misunderstanding, a refusal to acknowledge the implications of Twombly’s means, the medium he adopted in 1953 and had perfected by 1955, the medium through which he drew his own conclusions about the import of Abstract Expressionist gesture. Turning away from an imitation of the smears and scumbles of Franz Kline or de Kooning, which he had been practicing at Black Mountain College, Twombly took up graffiti as a way of interpreting the meaning of Action Painting’s mark, and most particularly that of Pollock’s radically innovative dripped line. For graffiti is a medium of marking that has precise, and unmistakable, characteristics. First, it is performative, suspending representation in favor of action: I mark you, I cancel you, I dirty you. Second, it is violent: always an invasion of a space that is not the marker’s own, it takes illegitimate advantage of the surface of inscription, violating it, mauling it, scarring it. Third, it converts the present tense of the performative into the past tense of the index: it is the trace of an event, torn away from the presence of the marker. “Kilroy was here,” it reads.” [Rosalind Krauss on Cy Twombly]
I met Clement Greenberg during those years. He looked at my work and said, “Stop drawing so much.” But I just went deeper into drawing. The drawing had to do with what I was hearing. There was so much sound and so many kinds of speech all around the city; New York was full of human and mechanical sound, and that’s what I sought to reflect in my paintings. I saw Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer take on public spaces with their texts—it seemed like a kind of bravado with a purpose, or maybe it’s better to say that the size of their work was integral to the subjects they had in play. Their use of advertising language and text displays made it possible to experience language in a physically immersive way, yet advertising wasn’t something I wanted to be associated with at that time. It was so clean, smooth, sharp, and bright … very cool. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, and even Anselm Kiefer were making language in this very physical way—the stain, smudge, or spray seemed close to the way a body can draw, write, or speak….They made legible statements in English with painted language. This climate really pointed to questions about who has permission to make physical work and also be socially relevant. And with this came the question, What, if any, are the feminine or masculine tendencies in visual art? [Suzanne McClelland in conversation with Barry Schwabsky]
“In 1991 Oehlen began making drawings on the computer without knowing too much about the technical details. The resulting images were printed out, silkscreened onto large canvases, and worked on some more with paint. The computer-drawn lines became monumental, raising questions around the nature of materiality. While the digital offers no resistance and can be modified at will, paint insists on a life of its own: its sheen varies, depending on the way the light falls; it drips or is too matte or thick in all the wrong places. There is a certain arrogance to its materiality – a quality foreign to the digital, which is so endlessly compliant. In the following years, Oehlen conducted further experiments with the digital, working through various possibilities for drawing and colour, and creating invitation cards and posters that look as if Photoshop were having a bad dream. Oehlen then continued to broaden his territory, especially in the late 90s, with a series of grey paintings in which he adopts Gerhard Richter’s famous blurring technique. As in Richter’s works, this process resulted in images that both suggested a lot of associations and were formally elegant. One might think that such an effect is inevitable: blurry grey is always a big hit. This would seem to support Walter Robinson’s theory of “zombie formalism”, which claims that contemporary painting is dominated by work that refers in more or less covert ways to art (like the work of Christopher Wool or Albert Oehlen) that is well established on the market.” [Daniel Baumann on Albert Oehlen]