An Outmoded Medium

David Reed #640 2012-2014

Painting was under attack as an outmoded medium in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the experimental painting that interested me was caught in the middle. lt was condemned by the conservative defenders of tradition, who used outmoded definitions and old-fashioned criteria to make judgments against it. At the same time, it was dismissed by those who did not see how painting could be connected to other forms of experimental art. For these critics, no kind of painting was possible. Such attacks stemmed from a lack of understanding and sympathy for experimental painting, or from ideological turf wars and posturing. Often, experimental painting was not acknowledged because in such an old and distinguished, male-dominated medium, the innovations had come from unexpected, new sources – women, blacks, lesbians, gays, counterculture radicals, and bohemian sensualists. These attacks, however, did not stop the artists from painting.” [David Reed Streets and Studios]

Sean Scully Landline Strand 2017

It [art] is process and product in relation to the weight and continuum of history. That’s a huge burden to take on, but it’s a burden that is interesting and can make our culture so interesting. To try to make a culture where people are detached from history is not only unrewarding, but is potentially dangerous. It is like knowing nothing about the Parthenon, nothing about the birth of Democracy, knowing nothing about the Age of Reason, knowing nothing about the Industrial Revolution, knowing nothing about the Holocaust. It makes for an empty life and for an empty culture. I think they are not even particularly concerned with product. What they’re concerned with is the effect that something can have, and only that. It is a pure and unbridled form of capitalism. It is pure exploitation. To give one example, it is exactly the equivalent, in the political sense, as taking out as much as possible from the rain forest. Without any idea of what happened before and what could happen afterwards, it is like making art that has no sense of consequentiality. It is not only a question of its relation to history; I’m talking about history as something that is going to be in the future too. We’re going to have more history in the future. What these guys are doing is trying to make five-year careers. It is pure capitalism. [Sean Scully in conversation with R. Eric Davis]

Kour Pour Dragons & Genies 2012-13

“I think the fine art establishment has sort of diluted art and robbed it of its purpose. Art existing solely as decoration is bad, but that is not to say that decorative pieces cannot say something more, cannot be more than just a pretty thing. They have isolated the one function that art has. Art has become a financial instrument. Art becomes only two things: an asset or a decoration.” [Stefan Simchowitz in conversation with Michael Porter]

Oscar Murillo Untitled (chorizo) 2012

“I just do my job and find great artists. I’m not constructing some mythological, satanic narrative…that’s all bullshit! I just try to find good artists that people like and wanna hang on their walls. It’s pretty simple. I’m not trying to find art that a curator has to write a 10-page essay on and the museum has to show so that the bourgeois connoisseur can say “Oh, look I bought this piece of dog crap we can put in the corner of our toilets, that I don’t understand”. I like stuff you can put on walls and then you look at it and say “Wow, this is cool”. Art has a decorative component that is very important. The wealthy don’t buy art because museums have it, they buy it to decorate their homes. The Mark Rothko function has a decorative function.” [Stefan Simchowitz in conversation with Frederic Clad]

Nothing is Dead

Malevich Black Cross 1923

“From crosses, to piles of geometric forms, to simple relations among shapes, each canvas appeared an exercise in reductive simplicity. Yet, the focus of Malevich’s Suprematist debut was the simple black square displayed prominently in the room’s corner—a place, pointedly, reserved for religious icons in the traditional Russian household. Such deliberate, and, some might argue, seemingly blasphemous corner placement implied the reverence Malevich deemed due the black square, what Malevich envisioned not merely as the initiator of a new artistic style, but, in many respects, of a new cosmology.” [Elizabeth Berkowitz on Malevich]

Red, Yellow, Blue, Black and White. Really, that’s all anyone needs to make paintings – any kind of painting in any kind of style. Everything can come from those five things. And in the Modern Era those 5 colors were used to strip away the past in order to remake the present.

Mark Rothko Tryptic Rothko Chapel

But Modernism could not remove our collective memories and that past would reemerge throughout the era. From 1900 through the First World War – painters reworked the Western visual canon and their innovations were so radical and unexpected that no one could define what painting was any longer. After the war and the end of High Modernism there was a scramble to find meaning in these new visions. Surrealism, the Return to Order, and ultimately American Neo-Modernism all indulged in nostalgia even as they reinterpreted and advanced Modern painting.
“I am interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom… People who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when painting them.” [Rothko reaching back to the 12th century…]
By the 1960s and the dawn of the Postmodern era rhetoric like this gave the younger generation of painters a reason to revive pure Modern abstraction using absolute processes as they rushed to the “end of painting”. “There’s always been a trend toward simpler painting and it was bound to happen one way or another. Whenever painting gets complicated, like Abstract-Expressionism, or Surrealism, there’s going to be someone who’s not painting complicated paintings, someone who’s trying to simplify.” [Frank Stella in conversation with Don Judd and Bruce Glaser]

David Reed #49 1974

High Times Hard Times came after Modernism’s philosophic battles and after Posmodernism’s rush to the “end of painting”. This period in the 70s highlighted our exhaustion and confusion over what painting was supposed to be, what it was supposed to do and what it was supposed to mean. Many painters simply quit. So, when David Reed ran his paint brush across the canvas and deliberately manipulated the outcomes of those brushstrokes, he began to rebuild abstraction into a resurgent Modernist Mannerism underwritten by a belief and understanding of the history of the 20th Century.

“In the paintings made of two or more joined canvases, there is the feeling of a grid without any of the mechanical or photographic repetition we associate with this format (Andy Warhol’s silkscreens of Coca Cola bottles, for example). This is not what makes these works interesting or relevant today. Rather, there is an important lesson that they convey through their modesty and directness. The lesson is this: nothing is dead, no matter how many authorities claim otherwise. Sweeping generalizations are the politician’s bailiwick and, in the world of culture, it might be best to reject these across-the-board announcements out of hand.” [John Yau on David Reed]

Upper East Side Apartments

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Red, Yellow, Blue), 1953

“I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions — tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on — and the fact that lots of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions… The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point!” [Mark Rothko in conversation with Seldon Rodman]

Mark Rothko, No 10, 1952

“Two main stories competed in the fifties to explain the significance of Abstract Expressionism. One was nationalist, asserting native values of freedom and energy, as if America herself made the works. The other, Greenberg’s, posited an inevitability of formal development in painting, through progressive styles that were ever more attuned to the medium’s material givens of flatness and pigmentation and ever more averse to any sort of reference or illusion. Both tales ran aground in the sixties, when the New York School’s big painting became the chassis for Warhol’s Marilyns and Elvises, and its frank uses of paint informed the taciturn object-making of minimalism. Then those movements, too, disintegrated, and it’s been pretty much one damn thing after another ever since.” [Peter Schjeldahl on AbEx]

“What I find fascinating about the 1940s is that as much as we recognize the mature styles of painters like Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman and Rothko, back then they are all working in the same mode,” Mr. Herman said. “They were playing with the Surrealist mode coming out of Europe, and influenced by people like Arshile Gorky in their use of organic shapes. But at the end of the road, they all ended up in a different place.” [Ted Loos on Rothko’s color]

Mark Rothko, No. 8, 1952

“It was resonant but obstinately vague. It could be awesomely beautiful (Rothko’s best paintings are some of the most beautiful paintings by an American artist), but beauty can attach itself to the sublime (Titian, Rembrandt) or to the merely decorative, and Rothko’s pictures have always looked alarmingly good hanging over sofas in Upper East Side apartments.
We forget how many New York School painters ended up facing this problem. Motherwell, Still, Newman, Gottlieb: they all invented trademark styles, apocalyptically symbolic but formulaically repeated, which became the stuff of corporate lobbies. A painter like Guston seems all the more remarkable in the context of this generation for having abandoned, against everyone’s advice, what had made him identifiable. I suspect he was just trying to keep himself alive as an artist.” [Michael Kimmelman on Rothko]

Throw Them in the River

Robert Rauschenberg Untitled 1963

I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with influence because I think that one can use another man’s art as material either literally or just implying that they’re doing that, without it representing a lack of a point of view. But I also like seeing people using materials that one is not accustomed to seeing in art because I think that has a particular value. New materials have fresh associations of physical properties and qualities that have built into them the possibility of forcing you or helping you do something else. I think it’s more difficult to constantly be experimenting with paint over a period of many, many years. Like Ad Reinhardt said to me one day, and I took it as a compliment until he had finished his remark. He said, “I saw your show.” I think it was the Egan show. He said, “I saw your exhibition.” He said, “Those are very good pictures.” And I said, “Thank you:” And he said, “Yes, it’s too bad.” He said, “Somehow we just can’t help but get better.” And I couldn’t agree with him more.” [Robert Rauschenberg in conversation with Dorothy Seckler]

Robert Rauschenberg Transom 1963

And—And she [Betty Parsons] says, in her gravel voice, “Well, I look at new works on Tuesday. And this isn’t Tuesday.” So I was busy leaving; she said, “OK, put ’em down here, and—and—and I’ll look.” And I was so nervous by then that—that—I mean, she was—she was a real priestess. I mean, you know, she’s sort of a holy Tallulah Bankhead or something. And—and—and a dash and [sic] Tabasco by—by Marlene Dietrich. And so—She was terrifying. And so I was leaving, and she said, “OK, bring ’em back here.” And—and—and I was so nervous by then, that I just— I couldn’t show them fast enough. I just wanted to get—I thought, This is a mistake, this is a mistake. And you know, I just wanna get outta there. And so I put one up and then I’d reach around and get another one, take that one down. She said, “Wait a minute! I can’t see that way.” And so—And then by the time I left—this is that—this—in—that show, became that show—that she was saying, “Well, I can’t give you a show until May.” I said, “I didn’t ask for a show.” [laughs] But—OK. Let me—let—Should I just go on…? [Transcript of Bob speaking with David A. Ross, Walter Hopps, Gary Garrels, and Peter Samis]

Robert Rauschenberg Bed 1955

“These followed a notorious series of white unpainted canvases (“that was something I wanted to see”) and all-black pictures in which the paint was applied over a surface of torn newspapers. None were sold; very few of the black and white paintings still exist. Nor do the boxes and objects that were shown in Florence in 1953; an Italian reviewer suggested that the artist throw them in the river—and Rauschenberg took his advice. In his next group of paintings he experimented with red. “White began to connote some form purity, which it had never meant to me, and black some negative way of dealing with painting. I picked what was the most difficult color for me at that time to work with—the one I considered for me the most aggressive.” He began to use a wider variety of objects in his collages. In 1955 he painted the controversial Bed which was censored out of the Spoleto Festival. “I didn’t have any money to buy canvas, and I wanted to paint. I was looking around for something to paint on. I wasn’t using the quilt, so I put it on a stretcher. It looked stranger without a pillow, so I added the pillow. It wasn’t a preconceived idea.” [Rauschenberg Paints a Picture]

Remain Often in Bed

Matisse – Circus, 1943

“The cut out was not a renunciation of painting and sculpture: he called it “painting with scissors.” Matisse said, “Only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated.” Moreover, experimentation with cut-outs offered Matisse innumerable opportunities to fashion a new, aesthetically pleasing environment: “You see as I am obliged to remain often in bed because of the state of my health, I have made a little garden all around me where I can walk… There are leaves, fruits, a bird.” [On Matisse’s Cutouts]

Matisse Still Life on a Blue Table 1947

“A painter is no more the master in his studio than outside. The artist needs to represent things in a frame which corresponds to his feelings. If it is clouds, horses, it is the same law. The artist goes outside. He sees something which enriches him. He re-enters to his home. His objects, the understanding of the object profits from what he has seen. I made a picture, a young girl before a window. I left it in order to go to the pacific islands, to take the boat, to go to New York, a magnificent city, the buildings so big made the blue sky look higher. I crossed America. I have been in Chicago, Los Angeles. I didn’t want to see Niagara Falls because I had seen it too much in photos. I have been to San Francisco. I left for Tahiti. I saw a vegetation completely different, all sorts of things, extremely beautiful and curious. I have been in the atolls where the air is of such purity without any dust. The fish are of all colors. I returned by the Panama Canal, stopped at Martinique and Guadalupe and came back to Marseille. I came back to my studio and looked at my painting again and finished it. Sometime after I made a decoration for Barnes. There I expressed what I had felt during my voyage and I owe to this voyage what I made. It is not the subject which counts. 
The subject puts you on the road, but it doesn’t count.” [Matisse interviewed by Jerome Seckler]

Matisse Le Clown 1947

“No, I don’t use color scientifically. And I have no theory of color. I haven’t any theory, even of drawing. That comes only from what I know what to look forward to. I work while waiting what will come. When I began painting, I copied the paintings in the Louvre and I finished by clarifying all that I thought and to see that color is a very beautiful thing. Why mix up the colors. Why trouble with all that. Why not utilize these colors as they are naturally. I searched for my combinations with combinations of colors which do not destroy themselves. In my [spirit], perspective is made in my head and not on the paper. That depends on you and the ideas you have. The most simple things are the most difficult. Can one understand why one doesn’t make the perspective like the Italians? The primitives also didn’t have perspective. One must see the colors as sonorities. A musical chord has a particular expression. You have the harmonies of colors, which have particular resonances. All music is made with seven notes. With that, one makes all the relations. Painting is the same thing.” [Matisse in conversation with Jerome Seckler]

Past Problems

WB: But hopefully it doesn’t stop there. I think of it as calling up the tensions between where something comes from, how it was made, and how it appears. That’s why I tend to create situations where the form of the work is dictated by something that is functioning on its own, outside of my purposes, like settling dust, or X-ray machines, or FedEx. I think this allows the work to spill into questions beyond representation, which is where most discussions of art and politics dead-end. But speaking of context, and in terms of your work with the Radical Painting Group, I wonder what made the monochrome viable as painting for you again. Was it the American context?
OM: When I started to paint in France, the monochrome was defined by the work of Yves Klein. It was unavoidable, so if you did a one-color painting, it was a monochrome, and it was Yves Klein. At the time, we knew about Malevich, but we didn’t know about Rodchenko, and his “last painting.” So monochrome painting was Yves Klein and the new realist movement, and for me Klein was not even painting, it was more like a gesture. The circle was going against the idea of a monochrome, and from there, I did stripe paintings and these white stripes on white and red stripes on red. This made me consider just putting paint on a canvas. But you’re right, when I came to the States, there were people working with one-colour paintings but coming at it in a different way, and it seemed possible to work with it and not fall into these past problems. It was a welcome change. When I came to New York around 1977, the dominant discourse was the return to the figure, the return to Expressionism, with people like Schnabel or Salle and the Germans and Italians, so the monochrome was a reaction to that as well.” [Walead Beshty and Olivier Mosset in Conversation]

Olivier Mosset Venice Biennale 1990

“Red, white, yellow monochromes play with space. Indeed, Olivier Mosset with Red Square places the work in the corner of the room, while another white monochrome White Ceiling Painting is suspended from the ceiling. Here the artist refers directly to the history of art and the works of the artists at the beginning of abstraction such as Malevich, Vladimir Tatline, or those of the Bauhaus. On the walls sit large monochromes. These works directly question space – the space of the works, of painting, of the object, but also that of art [history] and the space of the viewer. They have been carefully installed in order to manipulate the painting object as much as possible. Olivier Mosset also produces shaped-canvases, paintings whose outer edge exactly follows the painted pattern. The shaped-canvases are most often monochromes – borrowed forms – the star painted in red, pink and blue for example. Any reference to a logo or a symbol is subverted by a change of color or placement forcing the viewer to see only what is in front of him. The sculpture placed between the stairs and the entrance/exit of the exhibition creates another play of [visual] space for the viewer. Untitled (Toblerones) are six identical, imposing geometric forms reproduced from a 1994 cardboard work shown at the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts in Sion. The piece is based on the anti-tank dams designed by the Swiss army, forms which look like the famous Toblerone bars. For the viewer these forms function like decoy sculptures – a half dam in space – but they’re seen as more of a succession of grayish planes. [Mosset’s] radical, minimalist work begins to extend into three dimensions. [My awful interpretation]

Olivier Mosset Blue, 2017

“…Mosset stuck with a minimalist presentation of static finitude in order to bring into sharper focus an immanent sense of being in the world (as opposed to a Heideggerian “Being” in the world, or a never-ending phenomenalist argument of sense and perception). An actualized phenomenology of being has a part to play in Mosset’s works only to the extent that it imparts a reassuring fullness to a quotidian satori. In other words, Mosset’s work doesn’t rely upon any historical dialectic of the ontological narrative and its attendant “facticity,” so much as it calls forth a direct encounter with the materiality of being sans the argument of the fact. Curiously, it’s this minimally affected mode that constitutes the poetic dimension of the work. Mosset’s paintings embody the poetics of being in a monumentally unheroic and contradictory glory: simultaneously abstract and real.” [Tom McGlynn on Olivier Mosset]

Gesture and Movement

De Kooning Untitled 1983

“It’s the play of time and space through pigment and gesture that I’ve found so interesting. Through the movement of a mark you can travel to the innards of the painting or drawing and then follow the movement right back out. When you keep the paint wet and run other pigment through it, the gesture is forever frozen in a moment of becoming. It’s as though the paint is still live, even after it dries. I try to use these possibilities in the painting of figures, for example to get that feeling of delicate skin underneath the eye socket by running two or three tones wet into wet. By working like this and keeping the paint fluid, you create multiple nuanced tones that would be impossible to mix individually. The gesture and movement of painting actually creates those color tones. It’s exciting to work like that, because you work from the nature of the medium and the nature of yourself, in the moment.” [Jenny Saville on de Kooning]

De Kooning Gagosian Installation 2013

“Pared down to essentials, the smooth surfaces of the paintings are layered with a range of prismatic colours with toned white and pastel areas. Moving from ribbons and arabesques to a spirited bold use of lines and forms that carry clarity and strength, de Kooning’s palette shifts in tandem through the decade. In many 1980s paintings, distinct abstract shapes are suggestive of an elusive figuration and landscape, with elements reminiscent of earlier decades. As a starting point and way to generate ideas, de Kooning began with charcoal drawing on these canvases as he had done throughout his career. De Kooning moved in and out of drawing and painting, making for his calligraphic and ever changing canvases.” [Skarstedt Gallery on Dekooning]

De Kooning Untitled XXIX 1983

“Western painting, in general, went molten in the Dutchman’s oven. Clement Greenberg, in 1955, called de Kooning’s pride “Luciferian.” “Were he to realize all his aims,” the imperious critic wrote, “all other ambitious painting would have to stop for a generation since he would have set both its forward and its backward limits.”
Such dominance was not to be, as Greenberg, to his satisfaction, already knew. (He and de Kooning despised each other.) The rules of avant-garde painting had changed. Conceptual control supplanted de Kooningesque lyrical invention. Jackson Pollock and the other “big picture” Abstract Expressionists had, without necessarily intending to, sparked a revolution in art as design: painting that is substantially complete in its initiating idea. Then came Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and the era of what the critic Harold Rosenberg acutely but too dismissively called art works as “packages.” Rosenberg’s indignant championing of de Kooning—whose practice he had exalted in his gaudy existentialist theory of “action painting”—did the artist no favors in the new, tough-minded art world. When radicals pronounced painting dead, there was no doubt about whose funeral they fancied. De Kooning’s isolation in contemporary art after 1960 or so accounts for the orphaned air of his late work. A larger historical shift explains the work’s sudden authority. All the cocksure movements of the last century have collapsed into a bewildering, trackless here and now. This condition turns out to be de Kooning’s perennial garden.” [Peter Schjeldahl on de Kooning]

What Came First

Mary Heilmann, Little Three for Two: Red, Yellow, Blue, 1976. © Mary Heilmann. Photo: Thomas Müller.

Mary Heilmann Little Three for Two: Red, Yellow, Blue, 1976

“These works share the characteristics of a substantial, handmade, glazed ceramic piece. The sides of the canvases are painted, calling attention to the depth of the support, recalling a slab or tile. Across the surface, paint has been scraped and squeegeed. Take, for example, First Three For Two: Red, Yellow, Blue (1975). Two rectangular areas are stacked, a red band follows the outside edge of a yellow rectangle above, and a yellow band does the same over a blue rectangle below. The bands in both cases are scraped over the paint beneath, revealing that first color. Further layers of paint are applied later and removed by squeegeeing off the excess, the smears and knobs of paint resembling beautiful missteps. The layers, one breaking through to the other, read as transparencies. The effect recalls ceramic glazing, as do the simplicity and directness of the configurations, limited here by choice rather than technical requirement. Frequently, compositions are refitted and retried at different sizes, like Davis Sliding Square (1978) and The Ghost Square (1976), both of which feature a blue rectangle and square against yellow. In the latter work, the “ghost square” of the title is formed by a yellow plane overlapping a blue rectangle, leaving a square section exposed.” [David Rhodes on Mary Heilmann]

Mary Heilmann The first red yellow and blue , 1975

“Between 1974 and 1979, Heilmann made over 50 works using a combination of red, yellow, and blue. Either square or rectangular in format, the paintings were constructed by laying down (mostly) opaque layers of paint and then scraping away one layer from another by use of a squeegee, as in Little Three for Two: Red, Yellow, Blue (1976), or exposing under layers by peeling away tape. The self-referential, process-revealing paintings were thus “built”. As Heilmann explains, “I wasn’t really thinking about painting. I was thinking about structures.” [DXI Magazine on Mary Heilmann]

Mary Heilmann’s Horizontal Yellow, Red and Blue, 1976. Courtesy of Craig F. Starr gallery.

Mary Heilmann Horizontal Yellow, Red and Blue, 1976

Were you thinking about Mondrian when you made the RYB paintings that are being shown at Craig Starr? Yes, in fact I even made a painting titled “Little Mondrian,” but it’s not in the show. I found out about him when reading art books as a kid, with the family. I was interested in both his use of color and geometry—the grid.
What’s happening inside the frame with these red, yellow, blue paintings? They are often geometric structures that are layered. It’s the kind of thing that you could look at and see how it is made—what came first and what came second—and that’s a big part of the content of that work.
Are they more about process? They are about process. Some of them are made with masking tape and layers, while other are made by scraping—taking top layers away.
Some of them are diptychs, which is common to your practice. What’s your fascination with pairing and joining up canvases? I guess opening up and including the architecture of the room as part of the content of the piece. [Paul Laster in conversation with Mary Heilmann]

Flowerpots, Tulips or Carpets

Imi Knoebel Düsseldorf-Milano XII 2002

“Everything is a painting for me. Each thing may already be the painting. You encounter that potential everywhere. You can pull a painting out of every situation. Those are the paintings you don’t have to paint, unless you’re a realist.” He doesn’t distinguish between object and painting, and pointing out the window to things put out on the balconies of the building over-looking his backyard, he says: “Flowerpots, tulips or carpets: each thing finds its place there without anyone paying that much attention. What is stuck out there seems always to be well chosen. Everything seems to be just right: things that have been used, things you’re attached to, which you can’t get rid of, things with a history, broken things. It’s everything people don’t want to put into their apartments. They can’t risk that in the front of the building. There it’s clean. Here, behind the building, the way they go about things is more carefree or less constrained. For instance, somebody paints a wall here only as far as his arm can reach and then just stops. That’s real space. To work out a whole balcony painting where each thing gets conquered is not what I’m after right now.” [Imi Knoebel on painting]

Imi Knoebel Red Yellow Blue White Installation

“… Knoebel was influenced by Kazimir Malevitch’s theory of the Black Square and its postulate of the autonomous painting without reference to reality – whether subjectively felt or objectively given – and without the data of sense perception. Knoebel argued that the “world of non-figurative art” should first be newly “charted,” just like the model of Malevitch’s “Black Rectangle on White” suggested. Yet Knoebel changed Malevitch’s conceptual postulates by actually taking elements of his surroundings as a starting point of his art. Knoebel was interested in how minimal changes of objects that were initially devoid of sense could develop the power to generate pictures. This happened primarily through the variation of materials and their positioning in space. At first, Knoebel drew on geometrical patterns, on squares, and cross shapes (Schwarzes Doppelkreuz (Black DoubleCross), 1968/85). Soon, he also organized the plywood boards which he painted in various colors into irregular and asymmetrical wall arrangements (Kadmiumrot O (Cadmium Red O), 1975/84). With his Mennigebilder (Red Lead Pictures), Knoebel again concentrated on the color red. He did wall pictures in specifically mixed color gradations of an anticorrosion paint of the same name. Polygonal and trapezoid silhouettes are dominant and evoke associations of single, superimposed, geometrical shapes (Mennigebilder, 1976/92). [VMOM on Imi Knoebel]

Imi Knoebel Ich Nicht VI, 2006

“The Dusseldorf-based artist represents a reduced form of conceptual painting; his inimitable style has inspired younger generations of artists… The first part focuses on the current wall and spatial works. Titled ICH NICHT, in English NOT I, the show offers an answer to Barnett Newman’s question “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue?” In the paintings of his 2006 series Ich nicht, Knoebel responds to these primary colors -red, yellow, and blue – whose mixture gives rise to all other colors. The interplay of monochromatic surfaces results in a variety of different color combinations. The traces left behind by paintbrushes, the various different ways the paint is applied, and the combination of matte and shiny areas lends a certain tension to the paintings. Ort – Blau Rot Rot Gelb (2009), in English Location-Blue Red Red Yellow, is one of the key installations in the Berlin exhibition hall and carries this work into the third dimension. Three-meter-high aluminum panels, each painted in one of the three primary colors, join together in this installation to form an open space that veritably immerses the viewer in color. This work represents another investigation into color field painting and Newman’s famous painting series made between 1966 and 1970. At the same time, the installation invites the viewer to simply look and to experience the sensuous effects of the color space in a direct and immediate way.” [Deutsche Bank Art Magazine on Imi Knoebel]

Dance a Slow Dance

Blinky Palermo Straight 1965

“He painted a blue triangle at that time. Y’know, he drank a lot, and we used to go to this bar on 14th Street, and there was a bartender’s sister—-the bartender was a woman, and her sister would sit at the bar. Blinky would go and ask her to dance. He’d put a coin in the juke box, ask her to dance a slow dance, and after the dance he would escort her to her seat at the bar, and then he’d come over and sit with me. Then he’d do it again. He was a very funny guy. Very formal. And he drank a lot, and he also ate a lot of hamburgers. And he smelled like onions a lot of the time.” [Julian Schnabel on Blinky Palermo’s fallow period in NYC]

Blinky Palermo Dia Installation 2015

“Both Newman and Palermo were pursuing a quest for the nature and ultimately destabilization of perception through their works in question. The viewer of To the People of New York City cannot comprehend a particular scheme. “Seriality in the Metal Pictures is neither repetitive nor systematic, as in a work by Donald Judd or SolLeWitt; instead Palermo’s permutations invite but ultimately frustrate the viewer’s search for a rationale.” Similarly, “a whole range of Newman’s production seems to have been involved in a radical attack against any kind of assurance that we might falsely attribute to our perception.” The much debated origin of Palermo’s color choice in To the People of New York City, in addition to its the non-systematic seriality, are in turn reminiscent of Newman’s works’ vacillating elements that Bois refers to when stating, “in Newman’s works the figure and ground [the zip and the background], are irreconcilable. We cannot both fix the zip and look at the painting at the same time, and it is precisely upon this impossibility that Newman based the dazzling effect of his canvasses.” Barnett Newman use of color was richly evocative. The colors of his works were vehicles that reached out to viewers and invited them to take part. “The effect of these new pictures is that the shapes and colors act as symbols to [elicit] sympathetic participation on the part of the beholder in the artist’s vision.” Color acted as a symbol, and the fact that he utilized primary colors—red, yellow and blue—was, in fact, his method of deemphasizing the objectivity of his painting. Likewise, “Palermo began to compose his work in relation to a square format, and in eschewing illusionistic space, he too favored a dense, almost monochromatic surface that asserts both its materiality as paint and its identity as painting. What distinguishes his new work and at the same time, most clearly separates it from that of his American peers is the preeminence he continued to accord color. On occasion his color, like theirs, could assume a kind of literalness, a givenness—though not via a deadpan monochrome but through palettes of primaries.” [Barnett Newman vs Blinky Palermo]

Blinky Palermo To The People of New York City Part IX 1976

“The metal paintings that originated in the US contain explicit references to time or place — Coney IslandWooster StreetTimes of the Day — and are in turn bound up with the sequential form of these compositions. Palermo lived in New York for about two and a half years, from 1973 to 1976. His reasons for moving there were manifold: his serious interest in American postwar art, specifically Newman and Rothko, his love for jazz music and his search for artistic inspiration. The small acrylic paintings on aluminum he produced in New York come in a serial format and strive for an emphasis on the object-like quality of the individual components. They seem to be a result of his introduction to, and confrontation with, American minimalist painting; color is used as a structural component. The specific object-like quality of the metal paintings results from the many layers of paint Palermo applied to the aluminum plates. The viewer has to move around them because the series can’t be taken in from a single vantage point. If you think of Bruce Nauman and his interest in human scale, the interaction between body and work, you get close to the spirit that characterizes these ‘American works.’” [Vanessa Joan Müller on Blinky Palermo]