“In 1989 I rented the former showroom of “Magic Carpet” on Houston Street as a studio. There was wall-to-wall carpet covering the entire floor of the loft space. John Currin and the Landers brothers were upstairs. It took me a while but at some point I realized that taking an entire space by laying carpet was more powerful than the paintings I was doing at that time.” Rudolf Stingel in conversation with a bunch of admiring curators, Flash Art, 2013.
The thing about the other side of the Mannerist movement is that it’s all about mechanical processes rather than painting processes. Stingel actually wrote an instruction book in the late 80s on how to make one of his silver paintings, which I dare say was probably a precursor to a couple of Zombie abstractionist in the twenty teens. Stingel’s book has a step by step recipe for the Conceptual Abstractionist in training, and it lays out an idea of a mechanical step-by-step painting application that can be easily reproduced. And this idea comes not only from Warhol, but from the 60s Minimalists as well – these paintings are made like Stella’s early stripes in particular.
But this was just the beginning for Stingel as lens based reproduction took hold of his abstract work – which over time became mainly images of Wallpapers and Carpets. Slight variations in the application of the images played with the idea of both abstraction and decoration.
Stingel once remarked that “…artists have always been accused of being decorators, so I just went to the extreme and painted the wallpaper.” Clem used to caution abstract artists on this exact thing. It’s an interesting argument. So one has to ask – what’s the difference between abstraction and decoration?