Lens Reality

Gerhard Richter Man Shot Down 1 1988

“But the history of history painting is itself a history of the withdrawal of a subject from painting’s ability to represent, a withdrawal that ultimately generated the modernist notion of aesthetic autonomy. In this development, forms of traditional representation were divided into, on the one hand, a referential function based on resemblance (a function that photography would increasingly and more convincingly assume beginning in the mid-nineteenth century) and, on the other, the complementary formation, that of a liberation of painterly means, whose lasting and only triumph was to become the systematic negation of the functions of representation. In their refusal either to give up painting for photography tout court or to accept the supposed lucidity of photography’s focused gaze, Richter’s photopaintings have consistently opposed the universal presence of that gaze and its ubiquitous instrumentalization of the look.” Benjamin Buchloh on Gerhard Richter’s October 18, 1977.

In the early 2000s cell phones began to be built specifically to disseminate photographic imagery over the internet. This seemingly harmless byproduct of the digital revolution has changed our culture, our society and our reality. Many of the Abstract Mannerists took note of these changes and began to examine how they made their work. But for the most part they continued to concentrate on painting and reproduction processes while ignoring the deluge of photographic imagery and what it might mean. Painters have yet to confront this new world of images preferring instead to keep abstraction Modernist in structure, theory and critique. 

David Reed Painting #650 2003–16

“Today there is nothing magical about using a smart-phone equipped with multiple filters and other digital enhancers to generate “selfies” that are capable of being instantly published to millions of similar hand-held devices all over the world via social media and other online platforms. In the history of human communication, has a medium ever evolved this quickly?  – No wonder we don’t understand. It is the very effortless proficiency with which photographs are made, reproduced and circulated in contemporary life that ought to raise philosophical questions about what it is we are doing, because if you really look at a photograph, you’re bound to ask yourself at some point what it is you are seeing.” Carl Kandutsch on Todd Hido’s photography.

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