Dupont writes: "Artists today are confronting an increasingly ramshackle future where aesthetic, political, economic, and ecological promises have been revealed as failures. If they are seeing a future where issues of scarcity become more urgent, materials must be recycled or scavenged from surplus, and long-held political standards become increasingly irrelevant, it would seem natural to see trends in painting (re) emerge that question formal equivalents of these standards. The long-term success of painting can be attributed to its ability to colonize and assimilate outside ideas and approaches, stretching form and content to the breaking point so that the project of the medium is ultimately made stronger. If a provisional vocabulary can provide a timely reinvigoration of the expression of individual concerns, that should be all the ambition anyone needs in a painting."
[IMAGES] Installation photos from the exhibition Provisional Painting on view at Modern Art London through May 25, 2011.
The exhibition, curated by Raphael Rubinstein, takes it's title and premise from Rubinstein's 2009 essay "Provisional Painting" in which he writes: "Provisional painting is not about making 'last paintings', nor is it about the deconstruction of the medium. What the various works in the show share is neither style nor content, neither techniques nor materials, but rather a profound willingness to suspend closure, to leave painting open."
Starting with James Lord's observations of Giacometti's intense process, a process that ended in abandonment, Rubinstein tests the theory of "provisional painting," asking: "What does it mean to believe that in order to create a work of art one must entertain the 'permanent possibility' of abandoning and to believe that something called 'freedom' inheres in this situation?"
Sharon Butler posts about "the open proposition in contemporary abstraction." She writes: "There is a studied, passive-aggressive incompleteness to much of the most interesting abstract work that painters are making today. But the subversion of closure isn't their only priority. They also harbor a broader concern with multiple forms of imperfection... The painters take a meta approach that refers... back to the process of painting itself."
Samuel Cornish considers the work of painter Gary Wragg in relation to provisional painting.
Cornish writes "Wragg is also an artist who avoids heroic, definitive or authoritative statements, who posits a vision of art which is as circular, or perhaps labyrinthine, as it is progressive. In all these senses he is provisional, almost with a capital P. Where Wragg differs – or at least the most crucial of the many ways in which he differs – from those artists gathered under Rubinstein's rubric is in his evident and overriding belief in art, and in abstract art, as a place of meaningful and compelling visual experience."
Lane Relyea considers trends in contemporary painting in relation to "the talent economy."
Relyea addresses the tendency in painting towards "steady, routinized, repetitive labor and use of personal-scale, low-budget materials, and ... [an] overall sense of precariousness and impermanence." He argues that "it may be that what most recommends this kind of painting to a place of centrality in our D.I.Y. age is its superior associations with the studio, that artisanal site of making and doing, rather than in the power of painting to induce certain modes of reception like immersion or opticality or semiotic critique. This is especially true of such conspicuously made or crafted paintings, paintings worked on by a single pair of hands, with a plasticity both hard and yet malleable enough to withstand being heavily manipulated while still yielding form. Furthermore, what so enables such work to convey pure doing, to straddle both D.I.Y. and anonymity, to suggest an artisanal performing of subjectivity albeit in an impersonal mode, is precisely that they are paintings, rather than belonging to some other category of art. That is, rather than a special preserve of unique individuality, here painting stands as close as one can get to just doing stuff, purely making things. As Barry Schwabsky writes in the introduction to the recent Phaidon catalog Vitamin P2, 'The ordinariness of painting has become one of its most important characteristics. Painting is so familiar, so well-known that it’s become the default mode of art-making. The ordinary art made by the ordinary artist is likely to be painting.' "
Ben Meyer reviews the exhibition Considering the Provisional (through May 27, 2012) at FJORD, Philadelphia, featuring works by Amy Feldman, Annabelle Speer, Hannah Hall, Sarah Pater, Brendan Smith, Jenna Weiss, Hannah Tar, and Ryan McCartney.
Meyer writes: "Philadelphia co-curators Liam Holding and Sean Robert FitzGerald are taking a crack at identifying just what is provisional art, as it emerges organically and cohesively in the diverse work of several young artists... With this theoretical starting point one immediate question to the viewer of Considering the Provisional may be whether the artists at work really have enough depth to take on Rubinstein’s vision of 'the art of exhaustion.' However, the paintings in in the show are often energetic and exuberant. At a time when young artists often pursue expression in alternate visual media, those in this show are very committed to paint."
Matthew Ballou looks at Richard Diebenkorn's Ocean Park paintings through the lens of "provisional painting."
Ballou writes that "To get a clear view of Diebenkorn's connection with provisionality one must think about the sense of compositional balance exemplified in the Ocean Park Series. It is a balance that is hard-won yet still teetering on the edge of disarray. Though the works are in some ways locked, they flicker and undulate; these are compositions that don’t always feel as if rightness was absolutely achieved."
Michael Rutherford writes about a selection of painters whose instincts are leading them to make work beyond the limits of "the plane."
Rutherford writes: "Professional skateboarders have a saying, 'skate how you feel, not how you should,' and the most experimental and engaging artists have always operated just like that - working how they feel, not how they should. Currently, I see painters and others asserting their freedom and pushing the progression of painting in increasingly fresher ways. Specifically, I’m noticing more loosely hung, sometimes radically altered or reattached swaths of canvas (among other things) without need of being held taut and hung into place by stretchers. In other examples, the stretcher bars remain, but they’ve been reconfigured in diverse ways with vastly different intentions. But in the most arcane instances, paint has been applied to other objects altogether: utensils, detritus, you name it. It’s clear there’s no further pushing of the picture plane here, but some rather bracing yet energizing examples of painting post-plane."
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.