Thomas Houseago Baby 2009

“The danger here is less that this art promotes an illusory autonomy or cynically concedes to the market than that it reveals the discourse of art as now consisting of nothing but the market. Needless to say the collecting class, largely unexposed to the critique of modernism and still driven by humanistic myths of creation, celebrates any return to the promise of an autonomous, self-possessed maker yielding highly aestheticized products through mostly Intuitive means. For this generally older demographic, the return to modernism is perceived as combining the street cred of a younger generation with a vetted inoffensiveness that closely echoes the classics of the past century. So a Thomas Houseago sculpture may invoke the primitivist heroics of Picasso while a “face painting” by Mark Grotjahn can echo Klee or Poussette-Dart.” David Geers, Neo-Modern, October, March 2012.

Jacob Kassay Installation at Gallerie Art Concept Paris 2011

Zombie Formalism is part of our cultural world and the artists who embody this kind of Mannerism have become favorites of the contemporary art market. But what is it exactly? What is its purpose? Is this particular strain of Modernist Mannerism, Process Abstraction or whatever you want to call it, a separate movement, a speculative bubble aimed at hungry collectors, or does it embody our 21st Century zeitgeist? Maybe it’s all three. Either way these Abstract Mannerist works beautify and make elegant the contentious theoretics and disruptive innovations of the Modern Era. 

“Nowadays we see endless arrays of decorous, medium-size, handsome, harmless paintings. It’s rendered mainly in black, white, gray, or, more recently, violet or blue. Much of it entails transfer techniques, silkscreening, stenciling, assemblage, collage, a little spray painting or scraping and the like. There might be some smooshy blocks of color or stripes or other obvious open-form abstraction or geometric motif. A few painters are doing the same thing but with brighter colors, larger areas of paint, hints of gesture, or even drips. All this work has readymade references to preapproved, mostly male painters like Albert Oehlen, Christopher Wool, Michael Krebber, Wade Guyton, Laura Owens, and Sergej Jensen, or to the Minimalism or Pop movements, and of course it all calls up Warhol, Richter, Kippenberger, or Prince.” Jerry Saltz on Neo-Mannerism, October 10, 2013.

Lucien Smith Two Sides of the Same Coin 2012

“…it is one thing to attempt meaning and fail; it is totally different to assume failure and couch your work in a feigned sense of futility. Or not to allow any meaning at all as the Zombie Formalists assert. But what kind of meaning do you want? The work of the modernist has a positive meaning with its faith in science and a clear sense of the subject/self or its reversion to the chthonic symbolism of the pagan. But isn’t the irony of this irony that somewhere once upon a time there was a kind of painting that was authoritative for this new eternity of weak painting to exist at all. In its insistence on irony it keeps blocking any chance of a new language of time and space. It is a kind of negative religion, a negative eternity from which we can’t escape with its own rituals that any good MFA student can learn.” Martin Muger on Zombie Formalism, May 23, 2015.

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