Abstract Abstraction

There’s an excellent post that links to many current abstractionists by Martin Bromirsky on the wonderful anaba blog. He recently received notice of a book that is coming out by Bob Nickas called “Painting Abstraction” which looks to be this years “Vitamin P.” Martin is tireless and thorough in his pursuit of art, and you can always count on his exhaustive online research. He must have spent hours on this post finding sources for each of the artists mentioned. But as I was looking at the links and seeing the reproductions I felt that one could make out a sameness to it all, a kind of group-think has been taking place among abstract painters. Replication, reproduction, lens-based imagery, collage, appropriation of previous abstract styles, and in some cases, extended fields or performance documentation. Much of it is great to look at, professional, handsome, tasteful and clear. But most of it lacks any heretical involvement or thoughtful dissonance – one always feels comfortable. There are no rough edges, no deep experiences and no bothersome thoughts that keep one awake at night. What we are looking at is what we have seen, what we find agreeable, what we have come to expect from professional abstraction.

In Jerry Saltz’s review of a show entitled “Painting as Paradox” from 2002 he lays out a complaint about painting and painters that still resonates.

“At a moment when painting is all over the place and coming from all over, the most dispiriting thing about “Painting as Paradox” is how similar much of the work in it looks. This alikeness undermines individual artists and dulls edges…The real problem with much of this art isn’t that it doesn’t mean anything, that it’s conventional, or that it’s thoroughly indebted to an already worn-out Gerhard Richter-Walter Benjamin discourse. It’s that the work is dull to look at. All that matters about a work of art is what it looks like — how it was made, not the story it tells. In a hundred years no one will know the stories. No one knows the stories in Bosch anymore, but that doesn’t stop Bosch from being ravishing.”

Painting is not going to make a difference until we painters decide to make a difference. We must approach our work in new way, which is the reason behind our recent Rough Trade posts. We need to be thinking about HOW we put our work together, and that way, we can open things up again. Our next post on Color, Light & Space will be up soon.

I thought this essay by Douglas Rushkoff might add a bit of context to this post. We have already posted about the deep institutional influence of Postmodern theoretics in the Art World, and how that influence determines what we see, what is bought and sold, and how we are supposed to approach our art. Rushkoff’s contention is that market economies drive the direction of thinking and I agree. These days what works for the system is what’s true for theoretics and for thinking. “Whether it’s being done in honest ignorance, blind obedience, or cynical exploitation of the market, the result is the same: our ability to envision new solutions to the latest challenges is stunted by a dependence on market-driven and market-compatible answers.”

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