Further Thoughts On Dryness

We’re still experiencing some tech problems here at Henri – so please be patient. In the meantime we’ve been discussing “dryness” and all it’s implications amongst ourselves.

Roberta Smith wrote a wonderful article for the Times the other day about painting. I’ve mentioned this article already in a previous post. But I wanted to discuss something that kept bothering me about the paintings she uses to illustrate her point that painting is indeed alive and well.

Now I have nothing aesthetically against the artists that she chose to illustrate her point. They are all capable painters and each of them make accomplished work. But for the most part these paintings are unambitious and settling for the aesthetic leftovers of Postmodern theoretics. These works contain nothing that presents a challenge to the Postmodernist art world. Most have an “unschooled” or “outsider” look – straight out of Alice Neel, Henri Rousseau, hippie illustrations, academic realism and surrealist primitivism. Most all of these works employ a rear-grade, 20th century “amateur” aesthetic. Now I’m all for an approach to painting that isn’t overtly academic or professional in flavor, but I do believe that any serious challenge to the monolithic nature of the theoretics of the art world will have to at least be a scholarly one, and that challenge will have to stand up to the best painting that our visual history has to offer. Today there are many painters that rely on charm and guile to make their work. That’s nice but it’s not enough. I realize that any sort of ambitious painterly critique will have to be based on nuanced differences that we Postmoderns don’t understand any longer, but we painters must accept this visual challenge! Rear-garde painting will not carry the day against strong Postmodern painters like Christopher Wool, Peter Halley or Mary Heilmann.

That being said it’s great to read that a major NY critic is challenging us to make it new once again!

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