The conversation about Space in abstract painting, as all conversations do, has become a bit more personal and far ranging. It was inevitable. Words carry weight and if an artist is talking about one thing and doing another then things can be confusing. So in that spirit we take the comments/conversation into another public forum at Martin’s and Robin’s request.
Ok, then. Their tweets were for a discussion of the show that Martin’s curated, and you can click this linked text to read the essay and see some of the work. Basically, I think this is Martin’s brief for the show:
“…we…are…artists who want to put back together what was torn asunder in painting over the last fifty years. We don’t ignore the ideas that motivated that deconstruction but work with them. There is a paring down of art to bare essences in the Greenbergian ethos of painting. And it extends to the point where artists start taking the very material and ground of the painting apart. Where does it end? The work of Kelley, Stella, Ryman, Tuttle and Richter, artists I’d like to label as artists of the ‘bare minimum’, informs our painting. They provide us with the iconic shapes and notions of canvas as sculpture set free by their research into the underpinnings of painting. But our plan is to do something different to them.”
It’s fairly easy in this way. Martin wants to show us work that understands and accepts the deconstruction of painting from Greenberg on to the present while perceiving/creating something “different” within that style. So do these works do this? What is different, what is this difference, how does it work?
Now Robin, who is adamant that painting find something new to paint about, has challenged Martin about his brief and this work. Basically, he’s saying that the show broaches nothing new, and he’s having a difficult time seeing in the work the things that Martin is saying about the work. And that’s about where we are. Here’s C&P from a comment Robin made in a great conversation about abstract painting on Abcrit:
“So why can we not see a contemporary equivalent happening in abstract painting now? Why are we revelling in the facile geometry and the easy-peazy gesture of dinky little abstract paintings that can be knocked off three at a time of a Sunday afternoon? Is the association with past radical politics blinding us to the reality of the work? Why are we so tolerant of the lack of any kind of ambition…?”
I think this explains a little of the difference in viewpoints here.
Our conversation on space – space in painting, space in sculpture, what it means at this moment in time, what it means for the future of both of these disciplines – shows that “change” is becoming a real concern. And I think this is the subtext of our discussion on Space – what could abstract painting become, what should abstract painting do to make itself new? And I don’t mean that in the Modern sense! So in this vein let’s see if this conversation will continue…