Unreal Nature

January 11, 2018

Art Potential

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:15 am

… The “answers” were all to questions that have been answered too often before.

This is from ‘Review: 1969 Whitney Painting Annual’ found in Solar System & Rest Rooms: Writings and Interviews, 1965-2007 by (of) Mel Bochner (2008):

… First some credits. The Whitney is the only New York museum that tries to show art before “history” sorts it out. That isn’t easy. Nobody else is willing to put themselves on the line showing young, unknown, or just barely known, artists. A lot of good work had its first exposure in the Annual. Another point in the museum’s favor is that it doesn’t prejudge.

[line break added] They are not saying explicitly what they think is good. The very bulkiness of the presentation precludes that. This is important in that certain general problems can only be observed under these circumstances. Any disagreement I have with the choices in this Annual has no bearing on the intentions of the museum.

I do not believe that painting for its own sake rates automatic credit as the sole means of making two-dimensional art. There is no reason why it has more art potential than photography or drawing, which are never shown in Annuals. The special place of painting in art is only by weight of consent. It can’t maintain its position much longer, because too much good work is going on outside painting to be ignored. Public opinion shifts in surprising ways. A few years ago many people were outspokenly “anti-painting.”

[line break added] The biggest complaint (even among painters) was that painting was too illusionistic. But this never really seemed to me the major problem. Painting was not problematic because of illusionism. Painting was in trouble because no innovative energy was being generated in it. The 1969 Annual would seem to demonstrate that the tide has turned and there is more intense energy going into painting now than five years ago. However, the weight of numbers has not meant a proportional increase in innovations.

I question the model for current activity even being called “painting.” An anachronistic terminology only keeps the vicious circle closed. Exhibitions which purport to show “what is going on” show only what they are looking for. Inevitably this drifts towards creating “movements.” Although large-scale surveys give many artists their only opportunity to be seen, these artists can be steamrolled into alien associations. … What may not have been inherent in individual works is created by the curatorial juxtapositions of things. Contexts force different things to look the same.

“Issues” revealed by this exhibition are deadeningly blunt. Painting has become little more than a game of problem solving. The problems are of the additive type … “what” plus “what” equals something “new.” Most striking were the obvious similarities from solution to solution. … The “answers” were all to questions that have been answered too often before.

My most recent previous post from Bochner’s book is here.




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