To the Wall…

Rudolf Stingel Untitled 1997

“In 1989 I rented the former showroom of “Magic Carpet” on Houston Street as a studio. There was wall-to-wall carpet covering the entire floor of the loft space. John Currin and the Landers brothers were upstairs. It took me a while but at some point I realized that taking an entire space by laying carpet was more powerful than the paintings I was doing at that time.” Rudolf Stingel in conversation with a bunch of admiring curators, Flash Art, 2013.

The thing about the other side of the Mannerist movement is that it’s all about mechanical processes rather than painting processes. Stingel actually wrote an instruction book in the late 80s on how to make one of his silver paintings, which I dare say was probably a precursor to a couple of Zombie abstractionist in the twenty teens. Stingel’s book has a step by step recipe for the Conceptual Abstractionist in training, and it lays out an idea of a mechanical step-by-step painting application that can be easily reproduced. And this idea comes not only from Warhol, but from the 60s Minimalists as well – these paintings are made like Stella’s early stripes in particular.

But this was just the beginning for Stingel as lens based reproduction took hold of his abstract work – which over time became mainly images of Wallpapers and Carpets.  Slight variations in the application of the images played with the idea of both abstraction and decoration.

Stingel once remarked that “…artists have always been accused of being decorators, so I just went to the extreme and painted the wallpaper.” Clem used to caution abstract artists on this exact thing. It’s an interesting argument. So one has to ask – what’s the difference between abstraction and decoration?


  • MStone

    Hoping for the best, Robin. Can you comment – As a young painter/sculptor were these the kind of issues that you guys were dealing with in London?

  • Robin Greenwood

    Probably as a young painter/sculptor I didn’t give a fuck about such things. But I was so much older then…

    I am about to write (I hope) about the work of Anni Albers at Tate, which obviously has a connection to your topic, and which I think is magnificent, and better by far than all of the examples of abstract art you have posted over the past few weeks – and most other stuff around at the moment as well. The Albers ARE great abstract art. (Just saying, no insult intended, and I’m interested in your blog!) And then my wife comes along and tells me people have been doing great weaving connected to the way Albers does it for hundreds (thousands?) of years, which puts things into a very different perspective altogether. It feels sometimes like we are a pack of jokers…

  • MStone

    No insult taken, Robin! I’ve been laying out the landscape – so to speak – of what a painter in NYC must face. These are all highly intelligent painters reacting to a history, looking to this moment in time, and ultimately trying to find something “new.” I think you guys have had a different experience, no less fraught, but somehow have managed to stay closer to Modernism. For us though – we’ve pushed forward into a High Mannerism and must find our way out or through. One can never go back… I always look forward to your essays and would very much like to hear what you did/do give a fuck about!

Henri values your comments!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.