the referee only sees the retaliation…

Francis Picabia Natures Mortes 1920

“The first rupture was provoked by the diffusion of photography. As underlined by Rosalind Krauss, “Photography calls into question the whole concept of the uniqueness of the art object, the originality of the author… and the individuality of so-called self-expression.” This is the reason that led painter Paul Delaroche to exclaim for the first time around 1840 the famous and shocking sentence: “from today, painting is dead.” The second crisis is represented by the invention of the readymade and the collage that pushed painting to extend itself and “move beside itself in space through objects,” as noted by David Joselit. The third one was provoked by the questioning of the idea of authorship, or as defined by Roland Barthes in 1968 “the death of the author”. In any case authenticity and originality issues had been addressed by artists several years earlier. The fourth crisis can be identified with the critique of painting as a commodity, because of its mobility, its symbolic value, and its easy preservation, in the late Sixties. The fifth rupture focuses on the crisis of criticism in the so-called late capitalist society, as formulated in the seminal studies by Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello. “Since the 1980s the idea of an avant-garde became obsolete and dissolved and, again, the end of a critical position in painting was proclaimed”, as noted by Fischli.”[STOP PAINTING exhibition by Peter Fischli @ Foundazioni Prada, Venice]

If artists as great as Picasso, Braque, and Leger have declined so grievously, it can only be because the general social premises that used to guarantee their functioning have disappeared in Europe. And when one sees, on the other hand, how much the level of American Art has risen in the last five years, with the emergence of new talents so full of energy and content as Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, David Smith – and also when one realizes how consistently John Marin has maintained a high standard, whatever the narrowness of his art – then the conclusion forces itself, much to our own surprise, that the main premises of Western art have at last migrated to the United States, along with the center of gravity of industrial production and political power.” Clement Greenberg The Decline of Cubism

What began as a personal project of ‘channeling an erotic sensuality’ and finding an individual poetic voice, became, once Greenberg found his professional niche as a critic of modern art and culture around 1940, a program for making order and sense in the modern world. As [Carolyn] Jones shows, such a project entailed a high degree of selectivity and outright occlusions. Greenberg ‘tamed’ and ‘made accessible’ (p. 141) abstraction by excising its romantic, metaphysical and expressive associations and consequently ‘unified the modern’ (p. 108) around his discriminating aesthetic. Non-representational art was for Greenberg the most trustworthy and positivistic means of visual production in a world of duplicity, optical and otherwise. Jones reveals how the very aspects which made abstract art particularly anathema to Ernst Gombrich – its inability to relate to the external world of empirical stimuli – was what made it the standard bearer of Greenberg’s aesthetic theory. For Greenberg non-objective imagery allowed for dispassionate and ‘disembodied’ vision. In other words, because such art was wholly unattached to the world of subjective perception it could be testable, offering the viewer a model of ‘sensitivity without feelings’ (p. 114). [Robert Slifkin on Caroline Jones’ Eyesight Alone]

The distinguishing characteristic of the art scene at the present moment is the collapse of modernist orthodoxy. Though we lack neither artists nor critics who persist in upholding one or another version of the modernist faith, these votaries of an absolutist view of what is, and what is not, permissible for art to accomplish at a given historical moment tend to look more and more sectarian. Chastened by history and weary of doctrinaire imperatives, a new generation of artists — and indeed, the art public itself — no longer give an easy credence to exclusionary theories of the esthetic enterprise: The immediate result of this recoil from the absolute has been an increase in our consciousness of the sheer variety and multiplicity of artistic statement that the history of modern art—contrary to the myths of modernism—has actually harbored.
This consciousness takes two forms. Among artists, it is evident in the freedom they feel to pursue any course, no matter how reactionary and “unhistorical” it may be judged by the narrow tenets of the modernist faith, which their own tastes and sensibilities deem artistically viable. And among critics and historians, it is beginning to express itself in a more open attempt to come to terms with precisely those elements of the art endeavor — especially representation, and other hitherto despised expressions of “content” — which the formalist criticism of the modernists had succeeded in relegating to the limbo of philistine gratification.
[Hilton Kramer on Modernism in the 1970s]

“Chia, Cucchi, Clemente, Mariani, Baselitz, Lupertz, Middendorf, Fetting, Penck, Kiefer, Schnabel . . . these and other artists are engaged not (as is frequently claimed by critics who find mirrored in this art their own frustration with the radical art of the present) in the recovery and reinvestment of tradition, but rather in declaring its bankruptcy—specifically, the bankruptcy of the modernist tradition. Everywhere we turn today the radical impulse that motivated modernism—its commitment to transgression—is treated as the object of parody and insult. What we are witnessing, then, is the wholesale liquidation of the entire modernist legacy.” [Craig Owens Honor Power and the Love of Women]


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