Contemporary Art Essay
Word count: 1,836
Painting was proclaimed
dead in the 1980s.
Discuss referencing Greenberg, the Conceptual Art movement and the revival of painting in the 1980s.
I have written this work myself and have made every attempt to acknowledge the ideas of others.
Painting has been declared dead numerous times since the 1960s but it refuses to die, even though the relevance and legitimacy of the medium is repeatedly questioned. Because of this, painting has had to constantly redefine itself, re-negotiating it’s terms of existence, as new understandings of what art is materialise from our collective consciousness. When the death of painting was discussed in the 1980s, there was a belief that all combinations had been tried. Douglas Crimp, whose ruminations on the end of painting expressed the feeling of the time, cites the ‘black paintings’ of Ad Reinhardt (“the last paintings anyone can make”), the monotone and white paintings of Robert Ryman and the mechanical, striped paintings of Daniel Buren as evidence that painting had reached the end of the road. Crimp states “It is but a matter of time before painting will be seen for the pure idiocy that it is” (Verwoert, n.d.). Robert Ryman became well known in spite of his unconventional approach to painting. Although his critics tried to fit his work into a variety of categories, including minimalism, anti-form, process or conceptualism, they eventually admitted that none could be accurately applied to his art. He disagrees that his work is abstract, saying “I don’t abstract from anything. My work is involved with real visual aspects of what you really are looking at, whether it’s wood, or you see the paint, and the metal, and how it’s put together and how it works with the wall and how it works with the light” (Adams, 2012).
Robert Ryman, Versions I, 1992, (detail) Robert Ryman, Orange Painting, 1955-1959 __________________________________________________________________________________
Ad Reinhardt’s ‘Abstract Painting’ appears to be completely black, however upon closer inspection one begins to see that it is composed of an almost imperceptible grid of nine squares, individualised by subtle variations in colour. Closer examination reveals red hues in the squares at its corners, blue hues at the top and bottom of the vertical centre, and suggestions of green across its horizontal centre.
Ad Reinhardt, ‘Abstract Painting’, 1963,
__________________________________________________________________________________ Daniel Buren has been classified as an abstract minimalist and is best known for using regular, contrasting coloured stripes in order to integrate the painted surface with the architecture of historical or landmark buildings and structures.
Daniel Buren, F6 Orange, 1992 Daniel Buren, Sans titre 7, 2005 His main concern is the ‘scene of production’, a way of presenting art and highlighting the process of making, thereby removing representation of anything and focussing entirely on the work itself. The work is site-specific installation and contains a context relevant to its setting, thereby removing the work’s autonomy. Art critic Rosalind Krauss attributes modern art’s down-turn to Duchamp and his ready-mades. With Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’, conceptual art became the idea of art as pure idea and lost touch with the medium. Painting and sculpture gave way to installation art which was full of ideas but void of technique, becoming an easy target for mainstream ridicule. Krauss was drawn to the criticism of Clement Greenberg, whose way of assessing how an art object works became a personal resource for her. She and fellow "Greenbergian" Michael Fried would later break with the critic and with...
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