Painters Reply – A Reboot III
“We must first acknowledge that painting, like every other medium, has its limitations and work, so to speak, within that frame. Despite the infinite number of spatial illusions possible within that frame, it nevertheless remains a two-dimensional frame of reference whose dimensions are given in height and width. The dramatic alteration of the traditional exterior shape of the canvas by Frank Stella still left him confined to the geometric configurations within that frame.
Those who have abandoned painting in favor of other mediums have often done so in an effort to express that which is “beyond painting,” as painting reflects that which is “beyond words.” Marcel Duchamp was perhaps the first to express the futility of merely painting the object. His obsession lay in the reality of the object itself, whereas painters are generally inspired by the mere smell of the studio, putting away the temptation to taste the color that has just been mixed. Addicted to painting, they are not easily seduced by the newer trends away from their “habit.” When one is seriously involved in a love affair, one doesn’t think about the possibilities found elsewhere, they simply don’t exist. One becomes focused and centered on the object of devotion, disregarding its imperfections. A passionate painter expresses devotion to the object by painting it.” [Buffie Johnson Painters Reply Artforum 1975]
“It’s so postmodern,” an artist friend recently quipped about Ruth Root’s exhibition at Andrew Kreps. After a beat, he added, “in a good way.” The categorization may seem passé, but the theoretical movement’s tenets—to question the authenticity of authorship and the high/low cultural divide—resonated with the paintings presented in Root’s show. What the New York-based artist adds to the discourse is a contemporary subtext about gendered labor often absent from postmodernism’s playful, ahistorical mode of pastiche. In an art world where references to technology and zombie formalism are easily legible market tropes, Root’s off-kilter compositions provide a refreshing counterbalance.
…Within each composition, Root oscillates between expressivity and mechanical-seeming mark-making. The plexiglass panes feature sections of geometric shapes and stripes crisply painted in enamel as well as areas of more loosely applied stripes and dots in enamel or spray paint. Root does not devote herself exclusively to either hard-edge formalism or a personalized, hand-drafted minimalism but seems to travel freely between the two.” [Wendy Vogel on Ruth Root]
“… It turns out that he has not been sampling at all but rather, like Ruscha, reconfiguring Color Field painting. He has returned to, or perhaps never left, his undergrad alma mater, Bennington, the last stand of Greenbergian formalism: Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, Paul Feeley, Jules Olitski, et al. But Connors has taken nothing for granted. Paying attention to what he is doing, he has arrived at a synthesis of what, up until now, has been a stylistically identifiable but rather diverse output. It is also a very clear demonstration, in the form of an exhibition, of how a painting, at this time, might be constructed.
… Like all the paintings here, this one doesn’t coalesce into a single image, nor does it quite break up into parts. It holds itself at a distance from the viewer — due, in part, to the soaking in of the paint. Very little of it sits on top of the surface; consequently, it lacks the in-frontness found in most paintings, creating ambiguity.
Connors also draws on such painters as Ellsworth Kelly, Mary Heilmann, Blinky Palermo, Imi Knoebel and Gunter Forg, depending in particular on Jules Olitski’s Constructivist-inspired soaked-canvas paintings, circa 1963-65. As he progressed, Connors developed a way of working with wet paint similar to the Frankenthaler watercolor-to-painting method; the paint soaks into the canvas during execution and leaves small spatters dotting the surface, as in “First Stack” (2016). One notices, here and elsewhere, additions of little dabs of opaquely painted “tacks” sitting on the surface, which approximate the look of small colored stains, in counterpoint to the more dominant color areas. These opaque accents are often multicolored, like a tiny index, and signal an awareness of the frontal plane, in that the majority of the surface seems to lie “inside” of it. [Joe Fyfe on Matt Connors]