“Perhaps looking back 10, 15, 30 years from now, it will appear that this modernist tradition really did come to an end within the last few years, as some critics suggest. If so, historians a century from now—whatever name they will give the period we now call modern—will see it beginning shortly after the middle of the 19th century and ending in the 1960s. I’m not ruling this out; it may be the case, though I don’t think so. Perhaps the dividing line will be seen as between those works which essentially continue an easel painting concept that grew up associated with bourgeois, democratic life and was involved with the development of private collections as well as the museum concept—between this and, let us say, Earthworks, Conceptual works and related endeavors, which want another environment (or should want it) and, perhaps, another public.” [William Rubin in conversation with Lawrence Alloway and John Coplans]
“You know exactly what I think of Photography. I would like to see it make People despise Painting until something else will make Photography unbearable.” -Marcel Duchamp, in a letter to Alfred Stieglitz.
“From today painting is dead”: it is now nearly a century and a half since Paul Delaroche is said to have pronounced that sentence in the face of the overwhelming evidence of Daguerre’s invention. But even though that death warrant has been periodically reissued throughout the era of modernism, no one seems to have been entirely willing to execute it, life on death row lingered to longevity. But during the 1960s, painting’s terminal condition finally seemed impossible to ignore. The symptoms were everywhere: in the work of the painters themselves, each of whom seemed to be reiterating Reinhardt’s claim that he was “just making the last paintings which anyone can make,” or to allow their paintings to be contaminated with such alien forces as photographic images, in minimal sculpture, which provided a definitive rupture with painting’s unavoidable ties to a centuries-old idealism, in all those other mediums to which artists turned as they, one after the other, abandoned painting. The dimension that had always resisted even painting’s most dazzling feats of illusionism-time-now became the arena in which artists staged their activities as they embraced film, video, and performance. And, after waiting out the entire era of modernism, photography reappeared, finally to claim its inheritance. The appetite for photography in the past decade has been insatiable. Artists, critics, dealers, curators, and scholars have defected from their former pursuits in droves to take up this enemy of painting. Photography may have been invented in 1839, but it was only discovered in the 1970s. [Douglas Crimp The End of Painting]
1. The paintings are dead in the sense that to Intuit the meaning of something incompletely, but with an Idea of what it might mean or involve to know completely, is a kind of premonition of death. The paintings, in their opacity, signal an ultimate clarification. Death is “tragic” because lt closes off possibilities of further resuming; art is similarly tragic because it prefigures itself as an ended event of meaning. The paintings do this by appearing to participate in meaninglessness…. 4. The works are connected to the erotic life in more than just subject matter. They align themselves with the state of being in love; there is nothing more involved in pre-figuring its own end than love and sex. Each new affair, each new fixation already contains the fantasy of the next – of the bittersweet sensation of bringing this affair to an end, and more importantly, of surviving it, and being able to recreate it mentally; to exist in the present tense by seeing the object of a fixation recede in the distance; becoming fragmented and untrue…. 8. The paintings have to be dead; that is, from life but not a part of it, in order to show how a painting can be said to have anything to do with life in the first place, which is in some relation to the arbitrary. [David Salle on Dead Paintings]