Doubling Down on Painting

Rauschenberg Factum I & II 1957

KS “I feel strongly that David’s paintings in that show were not just the end of something but the beginning of something. You can see that in the painting he showed in the 1975 Whitney Biennial: this is a single painting with two panels and the second is a version of the first. So the first canvas is process that becomes a picture and the second one is almost all picture, or at least a very different kind of process—remembering rather than inventing.” CW “Exactly. Robert Rauschenberg’s Factum I and II [1957] play with that relationship, as do a lot of works by Jasper Johns.” Katy Siegel in conversation with Christopher Wool, Spring 2017.

The 70s was a difficult decade for painters in New York City. The successes and failures of the NY School and the Pop/Minimalist/Conceptualist schools in the 60s had left painting with very little room to move. Yet there were artists trying to work their way back into painting with questions of originality, process, reproduction and replication. For the 1975 Whitney David Reed presented #48 – against the advice of many of his friends and colleagues. It turned out that this painting was an outlier looking forward to the coming era of replication, repetition, duplication and imagery and how these things might be less about making a copy and more about one’s memory and how it colors one’s understanding of an image.

“The second canvas in the Whitney painting is not a “copy.”… The doubling is more an internal process. I am trying to remember in my body how the marks were made.” David Reed, 2016.

David Reed #48 1974 – 1975 Whitney Biennial – destroyed in 1976

“#48 is a single painting consisting of a pair of double canvases hung near each other. Each double canvas shows horizontal brush marks beginning on the left, and going across the seam between the canvases; there’s also a single vertical diagonal mark squeezed in on the right side. Chosen for the biennial by Marcia Tucker #48 was criticized by my friends, colleagues and supporters before and while it was up in the exhibition. I was told that I should convince Marcia to replace it with horizontal brushmarks, like #64 or #90. The criticism made me doubt the painting, but now I see that it was perhaps my strongest statement from this time. #48 was returned to my studio on March 25, 1975, and I destroyed it on March 12, 1976. It would be especially appropriate to repaint this painting since it is already, within itself, a repaint, the second double canvas being another version of the first.” David Reed Seen Again: Notes on Brushmark Paintings Painting Paintings 2016.

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