PAINTING: Documents of Contemporary Art

Magdalena, Marlene Dumas 1996

"Painting doesn't freeze time. It circulates and recycles time like a wheel that turns. Those who were first might well be last."-Marlene Dumas, Woman and Painting, 1993

This book is one of reading and re-reading. Some essays stand out more than others, and all bring something relevant for every painter to consider. Painting begins in 1981 with "The End of Painting" by Douglas Crimp and concludes in 2009 with "Painting Beside Itself" by David Joselit. I'll elaborate on some of my favorites.

Michael Corris and Robert Nickas
Punishment and Decoration: Art in the Age of Militant Superficiality//1993
This conversation is about the relationship between ‘figure’ and ‘ground’ and the harm in reading a work in complete formal terms. Corris makes the point, “A painting of quality is a picture that uses abuse, embellishment, degradation and decoration to generate complex visual malapropisms out of erasure, cancellation, acts of outright destruction of the surface of the picture, the scotomization of vision, unabashed scenarios of seductive plasticity, patterning and colour, or outright displays of incompetence - intended and otherwise. The picture/surface dialectic is not the same frame of reference as the figure/ground opposition.” Duly noted.
If I forgot to mention earlier, PAINTING is full of 5 dollar words. Like Malapropism (The grotesque or inappropriate use of a word) and scotomization (The development of figurative blind spots resulting in the suppression of certain items of information and knowledge).

Seismographic Negligee, Nancy Haynes 1992
Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe
Cabbages, Raspberries and Video’s Thin Brightness//1996
I’ll give you one guess to what this is about and a quote to make it obvious. “Video cannot ever be matte; it is bright and shiny, like a varnished painting where depth is in part achieved by glazing. Glazing means colour suspended in varnish, pigment magnified by oxidized and clarified oil, glowing from within like a television.” Gilbert-Rolfe discusses matte after analyzing Nancy Haynes painting as “protracted instantaneity, a surface organized less around incident than around formlessness.”

Yoshitomo Nara
Midori Matsui
New Openings in Japanese Painting: Three Faces of Minor-ity//2001
This essay is incredibly helpful in understanding contemporary Japanese painting through the discussion of the history of Japanese painting, Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, and Hiroshi Sugito & Tam Ochiai. “The peripheral relationship to modernity and modernism that once afflicted Japanese painters now provides them with the resources of cultural hybridity: neither conforming to historically sanctioned styles of modernist invention, nor forming a tight-knit group, these artists pursue their individual paths of innovation.” The longest essay in the book, but well worth the time.

Ulrike Groos
On Paul McCarthy: Painter (1995)//2003
About the relationship between artist (the painter) and those working around him/her in the art world, Groos states clearly: “The video sketches a stereotype of the artist genius as a backward, behaviourally-disturbed, infantile eccentric incapable of normal human interaction, who disregards norms and rules since his only means of expression is in the obsessive, impulsive pursuit of his art. However, even the gallery owner fails to take him seriously as a human being, to say nothing of the collectors, who take advantage of his ‘wildness’ to amuse themselves at his expense.” Again, incredibly interesting ideas to consider.

After it all, I can't help but agree with Marlene Dumas' idea about time and painting. Art and painting do not exist to make work that is better than the last, but work that continually reiterates definitions of existence.

Florida tomorrow.

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