(detail) Joan Snyder, Beanfield with Music, 1984, oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 144 inches (photo: mostperfectworld, courtesy of Cheim & Read)
Rachael M. Wilson considers the exhibition Reinventing Abstraction at Cheim & Read, New York (through August 30) in the context of curator Raphael Rubinstein's previous curatorial efforts and influential articles on "provisional painting."
Wilson writes that the current exhibition "is compelling, and that the pieces have been selected with a sense of the visually rhythmic—by which I mean, the paintings dialogue with each other: they carry on an engaging conversation that feels neither repetitive nor disconnected. On the other hand, though the group of painters represented here form a tight-knit 'generation' (one constraint of the show is that all the artists were born between 1939 and 1949), and though the selected works originate from the same period and place, the works are aesthetically independent enough to resist any easy categorization according to style or aims... Rubinstein’s curation in Reinventing Abstraction proposes something—an idea, a possible history—that may connect with others but which is, nevertheless, its own. It’s not simply the sequel to High Times Hard Times, nor the revision of genealogies traced in the 'Provisional Painting' essays, nor the direct extension of ideas explored in 'Abstraction Out of Bounds'— though it shares something in common with each of these. Though it’s not necessary to think of the show in conjunction with anything else at all, it could be interesting to consider it"
James Kalm visits the exihibition Reinventing Abstraction curated by Raphael Rubinstein at Cheim & Read, New York, on view through August 30, 2013.
Kalm notes that the show "takes a look at some artists who pushed the boundaries of abstraction, and reasserted its validity as a realm of intellectual investigation. Raphael Rubenstein has collected together prime examples of the well, and lesser known painters of this period, giving viewers a chance to confront the actual paintings that have channeled the aesthetics we are immersed in today. This exhibition includes the works of: Louise Fishman, Bill Jensen, Jonathan Lasker, Pat Steir, Jack Whitten, Elizabeth Murray, Carroll Dunham, Stanley Whitney, Terry Winters, Joan Snyder, David Reed , Mary Heilmann , Thomas Nozkowski , Gary Stephan, and Stephen Mueller."
Rubinstein comments: "One of the things that inspired my show was David Reed’s notion that there’s a 'street history' of painting that painters share with each other, a set of references and concerns, and a sense of where they’ve come from and where they’re going. This street history almost never gets into official versions. Art historians and museum curators don’t seem to have much interest in it. The other thing that really hit me was an Art in America review by Carrie Moyer of the last show Stephen Mueller did before he died. She wrote that Mueller and a number of other painters were the 'generation that essentially reinvented American abstract painting in the 1970s and ’80s.' I knew immediately that this must be true, especially because it was a painter I respected who was saying it. I also realized that this was a history that hadn’t been told. Even though most of the painters in my show are quite well known, they’ve largely been left out of the official histories of the 1980s because they don’t fit into Neo-Expressionism or Appropriation Art or Neo-Geo."
Rubinstein comments: "There's sort of an official version of what happened in art in New York particularly in painting in the 1980s... as with any received version, it leaves out most of what was happening. So, I thought it was important to look back at this period... at people who really emerged in the 70s and were painting in a period when... painting was largely excluded or considered passe... but these artists were already committed one way or another to painting... so this is looking at the experience of a particular generation, it's not the 80s complete, it's one particular cohort."
He continues: "When you do a historical show, you have to balance two possibly conflicting demands, one is that the works of art tell the audience something about the moment in history you're focused on... at the same time... it's really important to give the work it's autonomy and allow it actually to exist and do something unpredictable as a painting... As an art critic, as a viewer I really hate exclusionary versions of history... this is a history that hasn't been told... David Reed has a marvelous phrase, 'the street history of painting,' painters, when they talk to each other, the references they exchange, their sense of what's been important, what's happened in their medium, is almost a private language. Unfortunately, I think too many art historians and curators have not been interested in listening to the artists."
Beginning at 25:50, Rubinstein also speaks at length on the influence of Philip Guston on many of the artists in the show.
[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?"
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.