Abstract Art Essays

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Douglas Crimp’s “The End of Painting” from 1983 interrogates the relevance of all painting, not simply abstraction, to society; Hal Foster’s ”Signs Taken for Wonders” raises the question of the relationship between financial capital and abstract painting; Gilbert-Rolfe’s “The Current State of Nonrepresentation” insists on the potential of abstract painting to continue as a viable practice when understood as “nonrepresentation,” opening a counterhistorical form of painting that is concerned with the objectness of the artwork, understood in terms of a Derridean discourse of deferral; Donald Kuspit’s “The Abstract Self-Object” investigates abstract painting in terms of its psychological implications; and David Pagel’s “Once Removed from What?

” takes up questions of the definition and contemporary situation of abstraction in relation to feminism and formalism.

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.

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.

Beginning with Claude Monet and running up through Josef Albers, Kenneth Noland, and Ellsworth Kelly, John Coplan’s “Serial Imagery” offers a historical and critical example of the promise a serial approach to painting provides, and takes the seriality of Albers and Yves Klein as a challenge to an American fixation on autonomy.

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.


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