Painting Is Dead, Long Live Painting

Does something have to ‘replace’ painting in the evolution of Art History? It’s kind of up to all of us to declare it dead–or not; artists, collectors, curators, gallerists, museum directors,viewers, etc.,despite what a few may believe. For me, painting is very much alive. Then again, I don’t buy in to the idea that something worth looking at, something transportive, has to be shocking, new media. Photography, for example, has been around as long as I have but I don’t think it has taken the place of painting. It offers something different. Each new thing that comes down the curatorial pike, each new invention in media, is not ‘a replacement for’ but ‘in addition to…’ the unfolding of aesthetics and ideas in Art History. Perhaps, because I don’t have the need to establish hierarchies and designate one thing above or below another, something which has absolutely nothing to do with experiencing art, I engage in seeing all sorts of work. I love the diversity and panorama of visual opportunities available today. Why trade the possibilities of full vision for a pair of horse blinders? Painting is fresh and provocative when the artist is speaking authentically, the fullness of a viewer’s experiences are tapped and deep seated memories and associations rise to the surface of full awareness with new clarity and connection. At its best, painting can instantaneously transport us through time and, as one Lawrence Charles Miller poetically pronounced on a thread by collector, Claude Reich on facebook, good painting can ‘wake up the dead’. Yes, painting is still miraculous.

I could address the post-post modern opportunity here, but that will be another post. What I want to point to now is this; the full-bodied-ness of painting, specifically through the language of abstraction, provides a visceral yet wide open and many-leagued sense of the world. It can conjure up a quiescent yet energetic field and gets straight to the unwieldy point of it. Abstraction, at its most powerful, doesn’t preach, instruct or prescribe a set of rules or circumscribe galleries of thought. It references the known while suggesting the unknown.

So what do we make of it, literally? There have been inventions and refinements in paint materials which allow artists to create work with new subtly and effect. Advances in paint media provide opportunities for painters to keep work moving in all sorts of fresh ways. Of course there are manifold ways of making art; performance is alive, blurring lines between the arts and crafts is alive, photography is alive, and the practice of painting, for me, still provides ways to create objects which imbue the world with meaning. Painting is still on the cutting edge of addressing: here, now, that which lies beyond our ken, of flesh and beyond flesh, life, death, transformation, connection, collision, commercialism and dissolution, on and on… Painting can still refresh my sense of what I see and how I see it.

I move to pronounce the majesty of painting, to call the dead awake. Painting Is Dead. Long Live Painting.

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