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Nodelman notes that a question emerged “as to whether the fundamental mode of experience upon which painting depends remains a viable one in the late twentieth century” (Colpitt 75).In his turn toward this issue of how we experience painting, Nodelman’s contention resonates strongly with our own contemporary situation, with the dominance of installation, photography, and interactive art.This section also includes Lucy Lippard’s essay, “The Silent Art,” and Grégoire Müller’s text, “After the Ultimate,” both of which investigate monochrome painting as a particular form of abstraction, raising the question of an endpoint or closure that then demands other possibilities for thinking how abstraction continues.
Colpitt’s own fifty-page essay, “Systems of Opinion,” pulls together the threads and lays out the foundation for the collected essays.
Its focus is centered on two main issues: the evolution of the term “abstraction,” and the debate between abstraction and literalism.
In another context, Lippard suggests that what she terms monotonal painting “demands that the viewer be entirely involved in the work of art, and in a period where easy culture, instant culture, has become so accessible, such a difficult proposition is likely to be construed as nihilist” (Colpitt 59).
One is grateful to Colpitt’s anthology for allowing us to hear again the urgency about our evolving ability and potential inability to experience painting in our changing society.
Indeed, his inquiries reopen how painting as such responded to the “crisis” that different artistic practices (primarily Minimalism and Conceptualism in the U. And in the case of Buren, what also seems particularly significant is that his practices cannot be reduced to questions of abstraction, but instead demand an entirely different vocabulary of terms and issues.
Even as this artist’s work claims a reference to painting, it becomes a way of exploring the critical limits of painting’s condition, rather than continuing to contribute to a legacy understood in terms of abstraction.
Combined with questions concerning theoretical and philosophical issues relating to contemporary painting, Ryan’s interviews are both insightful and provocative, and, for the most part, his questions solicit a wide array of critical responses.
Ryan’s introduction sets up the context for the essays and conversations with some useful summaries of the issues that he claims are relevant as background to abstract painting today: the notion of modernist autonomy framed as reductive; relationships of parts to whole; and the importance of language to the practice of painting.
Ryan’s reading of each of these concerns is informed by the writings of Gilles Deleuze, so autonomy becomes a case of addition (“ands”) as opposed to negation (“nots”); wholeness is transformed into a matter of fragments and multiples folded into another kind of unity; and linguistic analogies are productive to abstract painting so long as they do not deplete the visual potency of painting, something Gilbert-Rolfe’s own introductory essay to the volume also warns against.
Unfortunately, the argument outlined in Ryan’s introduction is seldom explored in his interviews or in the essays chosen by each of the artists, even if the selections do begin to elaborate critical contexts that help situate each painter’s work.