The Memory of a Picture
“The mixed media works on display reveal Majerus’s references and interest in popular culture and art history. Using abstract subject matter, they incorporate graphics taken from youth subcultures as well as the commercial mainstream, creating works with elements easily recognizable by an international public. His emphasis on the visual vocabulary of next-generation technology and the 1990s consumer culture has led him to exemplify best what artist historian Daniel Birnbaum means when he said “painting in the expanded field.” The phrase pointed to the various and new social spaces of the Information Age – areas that are hard to capture visually, but which Majerus has successfully merged within his abstract canvases.” R. A. Procter on Michel Majerus show at Matthew Marks, 2000.
“There are always the two possibilities. One can look at a picture or look away. In any case it’s impossible to suppress the memory of a picture. That’s particularly the case with past or ephemeral things. There is always only one’s memory. A first encounter is the most beautiful encounter there is. Therefore the second encounter is haunted by the memory of the first. Despite the urge to see more images you wonder if it would be better simply to just reminisce about the first. With moving images that urge [to see more can] become a flowing story. There will follow on countless images as long as there’s a desire for acceleration [flow]. Whether these images are new ones or merely repetitions [these images] always play a major role [in our memory]. Generally, both [the new and the repetition] are equally significant.” Michel Majerus, 1997 Lecture.
(I’ve tried to make sense of google’s and my god awful translation of this statement, and I’ve tried to understand the continuity and the context of it – so please forgive my clumsy changes and edits…)
“… it [the internet] was a strangely new temporal experience that he had to express in his art. It’s almost like he was trying to translate that into something hopelessly old-fashioned—not oil on canvas, necessarily, but a painterly practice. How can you paint the Internet? What a ridiculous thing, but he did in a way. With every new project he was trying to grasp digitalized space and transport it to our physical space.” Kurt McVey and Daniel Birnbaum on Michel Majerus, February 6, 2014.
“We tend to identify large, colorful surfaces filled with imagery and text as paintings, whether they are acrylic on canvas, lacquer on aluminum, or digital printing on synthetic fabric. We are likely to see them as paintings even if, like two of Majerus’s most monumental works, they cover the facade of the Italian pavilion at the Venice Biennale or, more unexpectedly, drape entirely Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. A student of Joseph Kosuth’s in Stuttgart in the early ’90s, Majerus, of course, did not believe in traditional disciplines defined in terms of material support, but one can perhaps see his art as actively grappling with issues of painting in a different way….”
“…perhaps one shouldn’t refer to Majerus as a painter after all, but rather emphasize the way in which his spatial ruptures and jarringly mismatched iconographies evince the crisis that’s engendered when the medium is so aggressively exposed to the visual production of today’s technologies. His critique of painting does not ultimately entrench it more firmly in its traditional areas of competence, but instead opens it up to tensions and conflicts it clearly can no longer handle. This is painting in the expanded field-or not even painting at all.” Daniel Birnbaum on Michel Majerus Artforum Feb 2006.