Hierarchically Structured Object
The expansion of the field in which drawing operates means that the autonomous, hierarchically structured object so important to modernism has been displaced. In an era of fragmentation, overwhelming plenty, and a welter of information and images offered by the media, art works in this expanded field, and in it allegory has come to play a major role. In 1980 critic Craig Owens placed allegory at the center of postmodernism. He wrote: “Appropriation, site-specificity, impermanence, accumulation, discursiveness, hybridization — these diverse strategies characterize much of the art of the present and distinguish it from its modernist predecessors. They also form a whole when seen in relation to allegory, suggesting that postmodernist art may in fact be identified by a single, coherent impulse.” Defining allegory and its place “within works of art, when it describes their structure,” Owens cites Northrop Frye’s definition of allegory as a structure in literature, in which “one text is read through another, however fragmentary, intermittent, or chaotic their relationship may be; the paradigm for the allegorical work is thus the palimpsest.” [Bernice Rose Allegories of Modernism]
BR: It’s interesting that the largest (and most formal) drawings in the show were made after the actual works the drawings document had already been completed. What do you think Judd’s aim was with these drawings?
PB: To record his work in the only non-photographic way possible, and on his own terms. Judd might not have been the only artist opposed to photography of art, especially three-dimensional art, but he was very aware of its many famous flaws – its subjective/fictional aspects (likelihood of being manipulated), its deeply anti-empirical nature (distrustworthiness as evidence). Worst of all is colour photography, which claims more equivalency to its subject. In some ways, resistance to being able to be adequately represented by photography isn’t a bad indicator of quality for three-dimensional art. On his own terms means slightly incomplete or otherwise ‘sabotaged’ picture-making, to ‘guarantee against’ conventional representation, a major issue for him, and the chief reason he abandoned painting in 1961. [Bethany Rex in conversation with Peter Ballantine]
“The most important thing is that you deal with it pictorially, you worry about making pictures. When it’s successful the result creates a visual experience, but it does something more. It makes available to you both a kind of experience and information that you couldn’t have gotten any other way. If the artist hadn’t made the effort to express what was there in pictorial terms, it would have been a different kind of information, if it would be anything. The pictures are special in that way and they add something to the world. They add something to the sum of knowledge. You don’t get it by being an artist. You get it by worrying about what’s pictorial.” [Frank Stella in conversation with Saul Ostrow]