Mark Stone muses on painting in an age where innovation of the medium is no longer possible.
Stone writes that "the absolute truth is that we can not do anything more to painting. The 600 or so years of Western painting has gone full circle. It's ALL been done – from a to z. And after the excesses of the 20th Century upon the body of painting what we are left with is the horror of a recombinant corpse... We've unstretched it, hung it like laundry, ripped it to pieces, sewn it back together, unpainted, anti-painted, photo-painted... Yet all of that nervous desperation to get to the last painting or the Ur-Painting is unsatisfying to those of us who love the medium, its history and possibility, but remain unwilling to join the current Postmodern monolith or the reactionary academics."
Looking at Untitled, 1951, a largely monochromatic canvas by Clyfford Still, Chris Rusak finds clues to the contradiction between Clyfford Still's caustic rhetoric and the obvious "joy" he took in his work.
Rusak writes: "when an artist decides to introduce a proportionally diminutive amount of color into an otherwise achromatic composition, the power of each magnifies. Still's proportions of chromatic and achromatic space in Untitled serve to illuminate the canvas as a whole, to intensify the textures that build space and create dynamism, to voice the joy of his gestural process, and ultimately to challenge historical conventions about the interaction between viewer and art." Rusak also compares Still's near-monchrome to the painting Grau, 1976 by Gerhard Richter.
An essay by Mark Stone on vision - the vital sign of contemporary painting.
Stone writes "How we see things is the most important place to start. There are many of us who... want something more visually stimulating, thoughtful and resonant. We want to use our eyes informed by our technologies instead of relying on the technologies to dictate to our eyes. We are all visual hybrids at this point. We work both online through the lens-based programs and in the flesh and blood world... We do not see in the open world as an Impressionist did. We focus on specifics, isolate details, scan for patterns and then suddenly if we move beyond the program, we are able to comprehend a larger picture, fall into older ways of linear seeing, a to b to c, rather than being stuck in the loop from zero to one, one to zero. When we paint we should work through the lens to our own physical structures of vision, not the other way around."
Laurie Fendrich considers the unique contributions of Siense Painters such as Simone Martini, Duccio Bartolo di Fredi, Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Sano di Pietro, Sassetta, and Gentile da Fabriano.
Fendrich writes: "Vasari's 16th-century Lives of the Artists bequeathed us a closed narrative whereby Western art culminates in Renaissance linear perspective, mastery of naturalistic anatomy, and empirically-based imitations of light and shadow -- all the tricks that make for great illusionistic painting (what most people call painting that 'looks real') that were perfected in Florence... an alternative, smaller and more intimate, more mysterious and imaginative, and, to many minds–including mine - a more beautiful and moving kind of Western painting was developed by painters working in Siena... beginning around 1276 and lasting for the next two centuries."
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."
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.