Philip Taaffe, Desert Flowers, 1990

“The 20 artists in the show all helped shape abstraction’s previous revival in the 1980s. They all participated in an important 1991 exhibition, also called “Conceptual Abstraction,” at the Sidney Janis Gallery, documenting that florescence. And they all continue to produce characterful work today, as attested by the inclusion, in the Hunter show, of both vintage and recent paintings.” Conceptual Abstraction by Holland Cotter, NYT, November 1, 2012.

After “New Abstraction” came and went in the early 90s Mannerist abstract painters went underground. But truthfully the underground wasn’t really a hot-house of fermentation and growth. This underground felt more like a Terry Gilliam bureaucracy. The artists continued to show and in some cases to teach at well known universities. The critics that were behind this work kept publishing, teaching and curating major museum shows. So the direction of abstract painting in NYC pretty much stayed the course. And yeah, this has gone on for quite a while.

“It is painting that exchanges the hermetic Modernist ideal of pure form for a different ideal, or anti-ideal: the real world, with its bodies and buildings, movies and messes, politics and pop culture.” Now I think this sounds good, but it doesn’t exactly describe what this work was/is doing.

In 2012 twenty years after the first show there was another Conceptual Abstraction reconsideration put on by Hunter College including all of the artists from the 90s shows. And though many people went to see it, the conversation about the future of abstraction was once again cut short. And this is because in the late 90s and early 2000s another group of Mannerists had taken abstract painting down another path…

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