What is Painting? II

Wade Guyton Untitled 2006

“As told by the final room in this exhibition, this crucial shift informs much art today. Wade Guyton’s quasi-Suprematist 2006 rendition of smudged black Xs is about Warhol, the negation of the hand, writing as art, marking time, the machine-made touch, and the notion that printing is painting. Nearby, a brightly colored, hard-edged Sarah Morris of a modernist building façade shows how artists are circling back to sixties geometric abstraction in order to reconnect it to the world.
In the end, “What Is Painting?” deftly puts the lie to one particular art-world bromide. Except for diehards, the pleasure police, October magazine, pedantic curators, and those last few Greenbergian critics who still insist that if painting isn’t about itself it’s washed up, no one thinks painting is dead. “What Is Painting?” establishes once and for all that no one thoughtful has actually believed this since the Nixon administration.” [Jerry Saltz on What is Painting?]

Glenn Ligon White #19 1994

The text is from an essay by Richard Dyer entitled White, which is about the representation of whiteness. One of the claims that Dyer makes is that whiteness is very difficult to analyze because it operates as the norm, and so things that seem normal are very difficult to see, but that things that seem special or different seem glaringly visible. He says that blackness seems very visible and easy to analyze, whereas whiteness seems to disappear when you start to talk about it. And this sort of question of the visibility and invisibility of race in our culture was one of the things I was really interested in exploring in the work.
I use a plastic letter stencil that has every letter of the alphabet on it and the painting is made by doing each letter, one at a time, from the top of the painting to the bottom of the painting, and then when I reach the bottom, I start over again. The more I go over those letters with this oil stick, the blacker and denser the surface of the painting becomes, to the point where it is entirely blacked out. So the text is visible and not visible, legible and not legible in various degrees. The text still remains fragmentary. It’s not even possible to read an entire paragraph in the text.
The struggle that you have to go through in reading the text in my painting adds something to the text. [Glenn Ligon on text and technique]

At once edgy and academic, Umland’s “loosely chronological” exhibition of painting since 1960 swaps historical arguments for thematic correspondences—the use of text in painting, for example—that lead, more often than not, to theoretical blind alleys with the grim precision of a tax collector. The exhibition’s first room, for example, is front-loaded with a Philip Guston painting of a stitched scalp, a Philip Pearlstein nude, a Vija Celmin picture of a hand firing a gun, and a monumental Lee Lozano image of a hammer. This, quite naturally, would be the Violence and the Body Room. (Check). Four more walls follow a similar beads-on-a-string formula: Objects in steel, wire, wood, and twine by artists Lynda Benglis, Dorothea Rockburne, Lee Bontecou, and Jackie Winsor all add up, with the curatorial logic of Lincoln Logs, to the Wall-Sculpture-as-Painting Room. (Check.)  [Christian Viveros-Faune Review of What is Painting?]

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