Monday, February 28, 2011

Introduction 3

Ad Reinhardt in his studio in 1966

It is important to be clear about what could be considered a single artistic practice, or an ongoing piece. After all, any modernist artists have developed a unique, signature style that has remained relatively consistent over a significant period of time, and still more artists would define their work as single-mindedly pursuing a very distinct field. But we are concerned with artists who have been explicit in declaring that any future art they make will conform to a set of designated criteria.

For instance, this excludes painters such as Agnes Martin - in spite of the fact that her mature work retains a remarkable formal consistency. This is because Martin never insisted that her art must include the formal elements that it does; hypothetically at least, it is possible that, had she had lived longer, she could have gone on to paint quite differently. For just this reason, her identity as a painter cannot be said to be reliant on any particular self-imposed conventions that would govern the appearance of her future art.

Likewise, a painter such as Robert Ryman has been very consistent in his approach over an equally long period of time. He has dedicated his career to exploring the fundamentals of painting as a medium, and it is this that seems to be his primary concern. In fact this, arguably, supersede any personal rules that he has established for his art.

It seems that artists such as Ad Reinhardt, Daniel Buren, Andre Cadere, Alan Charlton, Bernd and Hilla Becher, The Boyle Family, Roman Opalka, or On Kawara have adopted a different model for structuring their artistic output. They have defined in advance the nature of all their future art, and they seem committed to remaining 'true' to these rules over the course of a lifetime.

Ad Reinhardt, 'Black Paintings', 1966
Jewish Museum, New York

It is not the self-imposition of rules alone that interests us. Sol LeWitt is the artist most closely associated with this position, yet the prescriptions that define the nature of his art are specific to each separate work that he makes.

Clearly, the motivation of the artists in this category is varied, and these artist do not display the same level of consistency. Maybe, for instance, we shall need to retain a subsection for artists who have produced many different kinds of art, but who, nonetheless, have kept up a single, ongoing project.

One example that comes to mind is Douglas Huebler. In the early 1970s, he commenced his Variable Piece # 70, a work that consisted of an exceptionally long-term undertaking: it was to document photographically the existence of everyone alive.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Roman Opalka

Roman Opalka with 1965/1-Infinity
Detail 2910060 - 2932295
acrylic on linen, Caldic Collection, Rotterdam

detail of 1965/1-Infinity, Caldic Collection, Rotterdam

In 1965, Roman Opalka painted the number 1, in white
on a black ground, in the top left-hand corner of a new
canvas, initiating a numerical series that might continue
to infinity but for the inevitable mortality of the artist.

All the Infinity Paintings are the same size, 196 X 135cm.
A new canvas takes up the count where the last left off.
With each succeeding painting, one percent white paint
is stirred into the ground, giving a gradual lightening
until Opalka will eventually be painting white on white.

As he works on a painting, Opalka's voice is recorded
reciting the numbers in his native Polish. When each painting
is complete, a photograph is taken of his face.

In all of contemporary art, Roman Opalka's 1965/1-Infinity
is perhaps the most impressive instance of a life-long
commitment to one project.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ad Reinhardt

There is just one art.
There is just one museum of fine art.
There is just one art history, one art evolution, one art progress.
There is just one aesthetics, just one art idea, one art meaning, one ART principle, one art force.
There is just one truth in art, just one form, one secrecy.

There is just one artist always.
There is just the artist in the artist as the artist-as-artist.
There is just the one art process, the one art invention, the one art discovery, the one art routine.
There is just the one art-work, just the one art-working, 
just one art non-working, just one ritual, one attention.

There is just one side, one way, one freedom.
There is just one edge, one framework, one ground, one existence, one fabric, one focus.
There is just one problem, one task, one obligation, one struggle, one victory, one discipline.
There is just one negation, one value, one symmetry, one monochrome, 
one touch, one energy, one shape.

There is just one method, one manner, one interlace, one overall, one overlap, 
one order, one rule, one thought, one spontaneity.
There is just one shape, one square, one execution, one transcendence.
There is just one materiality, one density, one presence, one absence, one disembodiment.
There is just one simplicity, one complexity, one spirituality, one uselessness, one meaninglessness.
There is just one statement, one technique, one texture, one importance, one silence, one texturelessness.
There is just one reason, one means, one emptiness, one irreducibility, one END.

There is just one art-morality, just one art-immorality, one art-enemy, 
one ART-indignity, one ART-punishment, one ART-crime, one ART-danger,
one ART-conscience, one ART-guilt, one ART-virtue, one ART-reward.

There is just one art, one artlessness, one painting, one painterlilessness, one effortlessness. 
There is one difference, one sameness, one consciousnessness, one nothingness, one rightness,
one indivisibility, one diversity, one essence, one finess.
There is just one thing to be said, just one thing that cannot be said...

There is just one painting everytime.
There is just one direction, one directionlessness, one form, one formlessness, 
one formula, one formulalessness, one formulation.
There is just one image, one imagelessness, one plane, one depth, one flatness, one color, one colorlessness, one light, one space, one time.

There is just one repetition, one destruction, one construction, one dissolution, 
one evanescence, one abstraction, one rhythm.
There is just one qualitylessness, one object, one subject.
There is just one style, one stylelessness, one matter, one sequence, one series, 
one conviction, one tradition.
There is just one participation, one perception, one invisibility, one insight.

    Ad Reinhardt, Poor Old Tired Horse, no. 18 (no date)