“In his 1995 video Painter, Paul McCarthy is dressed as a disturbing, overblown absurdist cliché of an artist and is filmed in a cheap studio. He smears paint on a canvas with an oversized brush, mumbling “God” and blowing raspberries. He rubs a giant paint-tube against a canvas with his body like a sexed-up cat against a pole. The result is an abstract painting – the most ridiculous form of artwork McCarthy could think to parody. Yet over ten years later something has happened. Abstract painting feels fresh again.
Contemporary abstract painting is different to previous incarnations for a few reasons. It did not emerge in opposition to representational painting. It’s not like we are living in times where painted images of the world are dominant. The grand history of paint is also not the point. It’s almost 100 years since Kazimir Malevich painted “Black Square”, and its utopian aspects feel old-fashioned. Gone is the enticing communist idea that anti-representation meant anti-establishment. The modernist abstract paintings of the 1930s and 40s, the minimalism of the 1960s and 1970s, even the neo-abstraction of the 1980s seem long past. And yet regular visitors to exhibitions or art fairs today can’t help but notice the prominence of abstract artworks on the walls.” [Francesca Gavin on Abstract Painting]
A significant departure has been made from the characteristically fuzzy and pixelated images taken and transformed from screens present in previous paintings. In their stead is an assertive—and risky—incursion of influence from high profile painters—George Condo, Christopher Wool, and Jonathan Lasker—but especially Wool, of whom Ferris has said, “I feel like Christopher Wool is so influential, he’s almost like our de Kooning right now. Everyone is copying him, or riffing on what he has brought to the table.” Ferris has been an exemplary exponent of a mode of abstraction widespread in New York from the 2000s, an informal formalism that eschews a settled pictorial structure. It’s a pictorial approach long explored by Albert Oehlen, amongst others in Germany and outside the Anglophone world, albeit with a less colorful, hospitable edge. Oehlen and Wool are artists with a close personal and exhibiting history, Wool coming into contact with Oehlen and other Cologne artists as early as the 1980s on visits to that Rhineland city. Ferris, particularly in this exhibition, can be regarded as thoroughly located in this German-American dialogue. [David Rhodes on Keltie Ferris]
There’s something going on
And I don’t know what it is
There’s a change taking place in my mind
And I don’t know how I lived
Before the doors were opened
To the house of wisdom…
The reality of it all is that reality is
What it is or what we think it is
Why are things the way they are?
Who has taught us all that we know now?
And is it for real?
Makes you wonder
Makes me wonder
Makes us wonder
[Dionne Farris Reality]
“You studied under Albert Oehlen at Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. What does an academic arts education have to provide their students with? In hindsight, what would you advice your first-semester self in order to make the most out of it?
Studying art ideally offers a wide array of possibilities to try things out. It should be as liberal in spirit as possible, with an optional education in art history. The importance of exchanging ideas with your peers can’t be overestimated. That said, I’ve never ever painted worse than I did during my stint at the academy. In retrospect I would advise freshman David to drink more beer, simply because it takes so long for my body to go back to normal nowadays.
What was your professionalization like? From an outside perspective it seemingly all went very fast for you.
The same people who trashed my work at first became prospective buyers years later. To be honest, I still feel like I never underwent a real process of professionalization. I hope I will never become a professional. I’ve been deliberately keeping things quiet for some time now. I rarely partake in exhibitions. My paintings have been my only real contact with the art world anyways.” [David Ostrowski in conversation with Julian Brimmers].