March 20, 2015


Here is a collection of links all hovering worriedly over a stubborn condition of torpor in arts and culture in our time. I note that Howard Hurst's December 2014 Hyperallergic article is still being passed along in Facebook and drilling into the comments, I was pleased to discover Martin Mugar's two links and from them, the Terrence Hannum link. I read and reread them, glad and hopeful that others have finally seen a problem that I had seen the outlines of when I was leaving grad school in the beginning of the 90's. In my statement for my last show at Miguel Marcos Gallery in Spain last January, I glossed my position in a couple of sentences:

I had emerged from art school in revolt against a disbelief in painting bestowed by the previous generation, a disbelief that had manifested itself in relentless negation, an aporia induced by a romantic fascination with limitlessness and a strange desire to dematerialize painting into "pure visuality". Instead and against this, I reveled in an entanglement of the physical body of paint, and sought to realize the paradox that a window to the infinite could be engineered by an interrelation of limits.

At that time, the beginning of the 90's, the world historical order had profoundly changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of China into the world's marketplace, the gas had run out of the reigning art world dogma of critical theory and I had presumed with it, the architecture of post modernism from the 60's forward. With every month after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I had expected to find articles in the art press reexamining the long toothed post modern epoch... but month after month, year after year, the critical auto-shakedown never occurred. So we whistled into the dawn of the 21st century without asking what baggage that we had to leave behind in the 20th century and what we had to pack for our entry into the next.

With the ghost of the proscription against painting yet still floating in the air, a multitude of artists turned to painting in and after the grad schools of the 90's and aughts but none (I would like to write "few", but there are none that I can recall who have made a significant impact), none had seriously questioned or looked critically into the ideological infrastructure that supported the prohibition. Painting proceeded en passant, bypassing and even slyly kowtowing to fundamental questions as to its legitimacy. So now we have an anchored meme about Zombies and art today is defined as the walking dead. The stock market crashed and money fled to real estate. The real estate market crashed and money fled to art. Market manipulators have had a free hand in defining quality because of this critical and intellectual torpor. Should we be surprised? Can we yet afford to be complaisant?

Now we are approaching 25 years of avoiding what should have been obvious, not only that painting can never die, that such a construct as the "death of painting" can only function provisionally as an artifice of argumentation but more importantly that we must cast a critical eye on the entirety of the post modern era from the 60's onward. This is why I am so gratified by this hourlong interview with Camille Paglia. This is why I have bundled it with the links above in this blogpost. We need an auto-critique. It is high time for the "physician to heal thyself". It is incumbent on us in the art world to take the vast arsenal of critical tools that we have amassed over the decades and use them on ourselves.


Note: Painting is the Sun.

Posted by Dennis at March 20, 2015 11:15 AM


She is interesting but her ratatat way of taking gives me a headache.Here is my response to something she wrote in the WSJ

Thanks for the comment, Martin, and the link to your 2013 blogpost, very interesting indeed.

Looking over my post, I realize that I didn't make your authorship explicit, I shall correct that asap.

Looking forward to meeting you someday soon,


Thanks for posting the comment and the link.Here is where I got started on thinking about contemporary painting.I suspect that Rubinstein must have read this since he came to my defense of my claim to have started the ball rolling on Zombie Abstraction. I would like to meet you someday as well.Are you NY based?
This is a link to an article I wrote that reflects my first engagement with notions of provisionalism and zombie art.Rubinstein must have read it as he came to my defense as the first to use Zombie Abstraction.
Hope to meet you too.

Leave a comment