Sunday, November 17, 2013

Painting? What Next?

A trip to London should include a visit of famous art galleries like Serpentine, White Cube, Gagosian... each has several locations. It could take a few days!

Crises are the occasion to reassess and hopefully move forward. In the art world, photography, perceived as a threat by painters, allowed them to get beyond the exact reproduction of the subject and move on to abstract and conceptual art. But what is next? Is this the end of painting?
The exhibition  The Show is Over at the Gagosian Gallery on Britannia Street in London is a gathering of artists preoccupied with the subject. The question arose as early as the end of WWII with Francis Picabia's last paintings born from the nihilism engendered by the war or the Buchi (holes) and Tagli (slashes) from Lucio Fontana.
The end of painting is celebrated by vast white rooms filled with canvasses covered by different media including chewing gum, urine or colors like grey, black and every piece chosen for the exhibition brings another argument to the conversation.
A monochrome grey painting from Gerhard Richter, a flat minimalist black work from Richard Serra, an expressionist black and white painting from Christopher Wool or the ultimate, Piero Manzoni's Achromes made with cotton and gravel are included with two fiery paintings from Yves Klein, consuming themselves in front of our eyes ( a side of Klein I was not familiar with, made in 1962 with scorched cardboard and pigments) .
The material varies. Andy Warhol spread urine on copper foil or diamond dust on canvas, Nate Lowman, sugar and dirt,  Gregor Hildebrandt, casette and tapes, Adam McEwen, chewing gum, Dan Colen, tar and feathers. There are no rules to describe the end of painting. Thirty five artists are involved in the show and the period covers more than half a century. The discussion still goes on, but what is interesting, the artists did stick with the format, all the works can be hung on the walls. This is kind of reassuring.
The show is mastering the subject and the quiet atmosphere was conducive to a great visit.

The question is lingering and the parallel with music cannot be overlooked. Atonal? Abstract? What is next? One hopes that the anxiety generated by this crisis will foster creativity.
The show is over when everything has been told and there is nothing else to say. Not yet.

no photographs were allowed

"Attese", Lucio Fontana, 1961, Flickr photo sharing
"hippity flippity" (tar and feathers), Dan Colen, 2012, photograph by Rob McKeever, Gagosian Gallery

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