THERE IS NO MISTAKE. These are paintings. No gerry- mandering over medium here. But if we resurrect an old debate, hyperbolize the issue, all too hastily, before renewing our commitment to painting, this is only to emphasize the absurdity this discourse allows: an ab- surdity embedded in paint.
From here, these ten artists wield a precarious force. Their works are not hybrids & they know it.
2 & yet, crucially, these artists are aware that there are other possibilities in painting, & in art—that painting-as- painting in this pointedly traditional, non-serial & non- performative sense is a corner—and they are going in.
A WELL-KNOWN ARTIST recently remarked that an image ink-jetted onto paper would be a photograph;
the same image printed the same way on wood would be a sculpture; & the same image, printed the same way, on canvas, would be a painting.
Boundaries have been blurry for some time—at least since the 60’s, or since Modernism, or since cave paint- ing—with the result that “avant” painters today per- form a radical dispersion of their efforts into not one valuable & sequestered object but into hundreds of nearly identical, “devalued” works: commodities traded in a flooded market.
This—as museums struggle to departmentalize new acquisitions based on the categories of old. & yet, if you can hang it on a wall, you can sell it at painting prices. The “problem” of what constitutes painting has been handed off, laterally, from artists to dealers, for whom the obscurity of a work’s classification is a sell- ing point.
Yet despite painting’s critical ambiguity, on the one hand, & its fashionable irrelevance on the other, we sense a certain sigh of relief as this madness called Post-Modernism eases into something gentler & more difficult to tag, but that nonetheless results in—Paintings.
BUT WE HAVE PROCRASTINATED long enough—not
as long as possible, as the continuation of this debate bears out—but enough. We return to the work at hand. The works here are paintings; they are only this. Their painting-ness depends on our agreement to call them paintings. In fact, their very painting-ness hangs on a general transience, on a categorical instability, pierced by many arrows. When we no longer talk about painting, or about art, they will no longer be “only this”; they will return to crude matter. Meanwhile, painting, from its corner, implicates walls & floors & all shown there, drawing all of art into its tautological relevance
THE PAINTED-IN CORNER is a fulcrum, from which
the artist, like a cornered drunk, deflects all takers. Holes in the wall, thinly papered, are ready to carry you through on the strength of your best jab. The title of this or any exhibition of paintings could be “Why Painting?”
Evinced in the work of artists who both-
er to ask the question is an emphasis on what painting does; how painting infiltrates & confuses & punctures the discourse of art, not just by flirting with other me- diums—but by also being painting.
THESE PAINTINGS THREATEN to be photographs, or diagrams.
Something quotidian or valueless. Deco- rative or merely referential.
Dangerously insular or illusionistic.
They speak from a technologically backwards position, proposing crude painterly ma- chines.
How close we are to drawing in the mud with sticks.
We might see a noodling wire border around a chunk of white painting as a sculptural slippage—but let it be a frame; custom, artist-built, as old-timey as its art—a claim laid to an abandoned zone.
This is no joke; no punchline masks an endgame. Whatever irony these works contain stems from the nuances of the medium. Yet their looseness & wit speaks directly to a larger mediated condition.
The painters featured in this exhibition diverge, then proceed, from the contingency of painting. They rec- ognize & apprehend the debate that boxes them in & corners their art. But through painting as medium, we can annex whatever suits us, & jettison the rest—the painting debate itself, for example: gladly, now the province of non- or other painters.