On Abstraction And The Ready-Made Gesture

As someone who backed into a project last September of making paintings of readymade abstraction, I was nervous, stoked, and inspired by "Besides, With, Against, and Yet: Abstraction and the Ready-Made Gesture," the group show curated by Debra Singer which just closed yesterday at The Kitchen.

I feel like I have no business making paintings, frankly, and no matter how fantastic I find the Dutch Landscape images I'm using, I can't help but wonder about the soundness of my basic idea. That said, it's invigorating to see, just as I started poking deeper into the techniques and drivers of various strains of abstract painting, an abstraction show full of artists I really like.

Colby Chamberlain articulates the show's ambivalence quite nicely in his Artforum review:

Thus merged, abstraction and the readymade risk canceling out each other's legacies. The secondhand status of a readymade sunders abstraction from its aspirational and emotive content, whereas the uninflected appearance of an abstract painting curbs the readymade's penchant for mischief. (To this day, nothing accommodates the definition of "art" so comfortably as stretched canvas.)
Add photography to the mix, and it only gets more complicated. I think of an artist like Liz Deschenes whose work regularly and rigorously addresses painting and abstraction at the same time it pushes the understanding of the photographic subject and process. And then there's the whole OG school of found abstractionists like Aaron Siskind. And Richter. I still can't help but think that readymade and abstraction are just two of the many balls he keeps in the air as he paints. Anyway, I'm rambling now. Great show at a great space with a beautiful website that's as tauntingly useless as a diamond ring encased in a paperweight.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: January 17, 2010.

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