Thoughts on the continued resonance of monochrome painting inspired by the recent exhibition of paintings by Joshua Smith at Shoot the Lobster, New York.
The work of Smith and other artists including Thomas Kratz, Dan Rees, Julia Rommel, is considered with regard to a question with "two implicit parts: one, whether an artist still stands to gain something 'sincere,' i.e. fulfilling, from making a monochrome, and two, whether the art-viewing public has not become too cynical and/or short of attention to appreciate a contemporary monochrome."
Sharon Butler questions Barry Schwabsky's coining of the term retromodernism to describe small scale paintings that mix abstraction and representation "in a manner that evokes the spiritual and intellectual strivings of classic modernism," citing examples from the Frieze Art Fair.
Butler comments that "postwar-era abstract easel painting has been a touchstone among painters... for several years, not just at the recent version of Frieze. Rather than observing a new trend, Schwabsky is giving what is already a robust movement, and therefore self-evident, a new, somewhat derogatory, name. Indeed, many painters have appropriated the visual language of Modernist painting, but from a critical stance, not as a form of nostalgia."
Schjeldahl writes: "Yuskavage’s analysis of Vuillard's art, and of her own, amounted to a clinic in painting for painting’s sake.... Painters naturally assume the importance of their subjects, she said. Meaning emerges by way of stroke-by-stroke discovery and invention: 'making painting happen. The assumption plays out.' For herself, she said, her signature flagrant female is 'a personification of painting itself.' That leaves out a lot of blatant, gamy sexual and psychological content - or leaves it, rather, to viewers, to interpret, or not. Her shock-and-awe imagery is surely willful; but it is grounding for the blooms of her deepest passion - to paint - in ever-surprising, delicate nuances. You end up not sure what you’re looking at, but only that it is canny and beautiful."
Steve Roden writes about the work of painter Frederick Hammersley, whose work is on view at LA Louver through May 12, 2012.
Roden writes: "when i discovered hammersley's organics they felt not only like the perfect antidote to the bombastic gargantuan works of painters like anselm kiefer and julian schnabel, but they also felt like an ally... a lot of decisions in [Hammersley's] work revolved around intuition, and i believe that because of this, the work is open in terms of readings and/or experience. an intuitive process - as opposed to a 'plan' or a 'propaganda'; offers the viewer a potential intuited response - creating meaning through experience, as opposed to creating meaning through knowing... this is what makes the work so generous."
Kent Minturn undertakes and in-depth examination of Clyfford Still's thesis on Cézanne and the clues it provides to Still's early and later development as an artist.
Minturn notest that "In his thesis Still eloquently emphasizes Cézanne’s 'tactual' application of paint and takes pains to describe the way his predecessor 'feels' his way around his forms. Cézanne and Still similarly dismantle Albertian perspective by giving equal emphasis to figure and ground... Although Still points out that one of Cezanne’s 'most important contributions to the evolution of modern art' was his ability 'to realize form in color rather than make color look like form,' he does not argue that one of these plastic elements is subordinate to the other. Rather, he situates them on equal footing and demonstrates the extent to which color and form are inextricably intertwined in Cézanne’s praxis."
With the work of Abstract Expressionist Charles Seliger (1926-2009) in mind, Addison Parks considers "that the painting is something that happens through the very act of painting, and not the result of some preconceived image that through careful effort produces the desired result. What we are talking about is the painting that evolves, changes, even appears to the painter in the act of painting."
He continues, noting that Charles Seliger "was as addicted to this experience as any painter I can think of. At the end of a painting he had arrived somewhere that changed him. That is the addiction. To be changed by making a painting."
To introduce his article on the "the visual anxiety that American painters feel when confronted with the European visual traditions," Mark Stone posts a revealing (and poignant) video of Clement Greenberg discussing Jackson Pollock's anxiety about whether his all-over drip technique was really "Painting."
Stone proposes that Pollock's inner-struggle is one that continues to affect contemporary American painters. He writes that Greenberg "makes clear that Pollock wanted to return to the Impressionists, to learn from them. And for me this points to our own continuing conundrum about painting. Pollock wanted to learn about painterly vision in Nature, about the way the Impressionists would see and paint through time instead of seeing and painting in time – visual culture versus experiential culture."
An essay by painter and writer Dmitry Samarov about the influence of place on an artist's work.
Samarov writes: "If you're a painter who's primarily inspired by your physical surroundings, it takes some time for a new place to soak into your consciousness in that way that's required to make pictures. Meanwhile, everywhere I turn here, there's a new thing to look at and tuck away for use later... My presence is starting to creep in as well: the back room has my bookshelf and flatfile and a bunch of old paintings on the walls... I'm beginning to belong."
D Richmond looks at the pictorial achievements of Sigmar Polke.
Dicussing Polke's "play between illusionism and reality," in the painting Negative Value II, Mizar, 1982, Richmond writes: "there is no recognizable imagery and the color in itself is ambiguous. What gesture that exists, if one could call it that, is not in the traditional painterly terms that one or at least myself thinks about in creating space. The space that exists in this does not make the canvas plane, the proto-typical concern of a Greenbergian formalism in late 20th century the primary focus. In fact this surface plane is of no import, hence the illusionism. Polke has created a spatial infinite..."
Frank Hobbs blogs a selection of thoughts on painting by Alan Feltus.
On painting's function in society Feltus writes: "I think art wants to be something people can turn to for a kind of meaning in their lives, or for a calm place within the turbulance of our modern world. Art doesn't have to explain our situation within the complexity of a chaotic and unstable society. Art can become social commentary, but it can also serve a much needed purpose providing a place of refuge wherein one can find a reason, or justification, for all the battling we have to do, mentally or physically, most of every day of our lives."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.