… who you know found the nerve of the good faith / bad faith problem and drilled right into its core over and over like a malevolent dentist.
Continuing through Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art Since Pollock by Kirk Varnedoe (2006):
… The question of good faith / bad faith is the subtext of today’s lecture on satire and irony in abstract art. We expect of abstraction, perhaps more so than of other art forms, that its intentions be whole, that it be meant earnestly. Traditionally we think of abstraction as pure and unmitigated, a set of black-and-white principles that will not admit of grays. In other words, we associate abstraction with a kind of idealism. The question arises, If we are suspicious of idealism, are we then suspicious of abstraction? Is it necessary that abstraction be ideal and that it be in good faith?
… the whole question of abstraction’s likeness to something — although it tries to be a picture of nothing, it constantly could be a picture of something — is abstraction’s steadily attacked Achille’s heel.
… Rothko may make us think anew about the evening sky, but having once thought about the evening sky, we think about Rothko differently. Hence, the extreme difficulty of ever coming up with a pure abstraction that remains resistant to association and reference.
… A heroic irony is at work in the pop art of both Lichtenstein and Oldenburg, an irony that posits knowing skepticism as a positive ideal, an irony in which bad faith is a necessary ingredient for a good society. And that is extremely hard on abstraction.
Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1943
… Now we come to the high prince of bad faith, not just in pop art but in the latter half of the century: Andy Warhol, an original, who you think might be a con artist, who you know found the nerve of the good faith / bad faith problem and drilled right into its core over and over like a malevolent dentist. Warhol is to the emperor’s new clothes what Chanel is to the little black dress. He may not have invented the concept, but he has become its spokesperson. For nose-thumbing on a bold scale, look at Warhol’s Crossword of 1961, clearly a send-up of Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie …
To be continued.