Today, in 2023, a painter rarely presents work without an aside which admits to the dispossession of this moment. It becomes clear as style is given over to the biopolitics of identity and reflection, solitude and uncertainty, absence and loss. Any description is inadequate. Any assertion is worse. Herein is the break which announces the unavoidable horizon of the end, with the voice of a friend conceding to it from a certain delineated limit of the world.
This end is inscribed in the meta-modern object. The respective practice attuned to its end brings forth an awareness of this terminal point. It shares the intention of the primary abstract painting— a common wish to carry these things to the brink of completion, to question their finitude, to maintain statements of the truth which found radical experience given to reproduction by anyone, anywhere, without being bound to any particular emotive instance.
This was a universalizing desire. The history of it is discerned in the surface of the meta-modern work, which is both similar to and unlike that which preceded it.
Isolation writes its own account. It brings forth an intensification of reality found in that which resists comparison and rejects myth. This is what abstract painting once did, and no longer does. There also arises a compunction in wishing to know of singularities not lost, and which wait to be discovered amongst the infinite details glimpsed in the perception of a wider world. The actual space of the world shrinks, or rather, engagement with contemporary space is founded in a withdrawal from it. What meta-modern painting understands of its end parallels the extinction of that which is the world itself. Likewise, it comprehends the paradox that in every end there always exists the possibility of that which lingers, which is unfinished, incomplete, or perhaps, possibly, even new. This is apprehended in the sheer presence of an encounter with that which makes things all of a piece.
This is what differentiates painting which is meta-modern from that which is not, most explicitly in this moment. It is extraordinary. Its rarity is not predicated upon a quality of uniqueness, but rather that of being active in the creation of its own context. It is not static. Its address does not register as unified. It is disquietingly off-kilter. Coded within its motif are a-compositional suggestions of rotation, variation, substitution, and repetition. These qualities are algorithmic in nature. As the motif repeats, it begins to paint itself, most assuredly possessed of detachment not just from its maker, but from the world which it already knows. It is not an idea. It is neither sensate or simulated. It is proto-alphabetic. It is post- numeric. It has no default value. It may become self-directed in a manner which suggests it is by wholly technological means that the world makes itself real again and again. This is surprising, and worth considering.
Admittedly, it is not that there is nothing still to be learned about the world, or about painting. Rather, it is that there is little more to be known about that which is largely already known.
First-order painting inquired about the world around it, and the place of that practice within it. This is undoubtedly true.
Second-order painting asks what is known of that gained, grasps what remains of it, and contemplates what may be done without. Of this, nothing yet may be said.