Thursday, March 28, 2013

Espace de l'Art Concret

Niele Toroni

Daniel Buren

Olivier Mosset

Alan Charlton with Richard Long

Espace de l'Art Concret, Mouans Sartoux, France

Although not particularly "Concrete" artists, the museum has in
its collection work by Josef Albers, Daniel Buren, Andre Cadere,
Alan Charlton, herman de vries, John McCracken, Olivier Mosset,
Ulrich Ruckriem, Fred Sandback & Niele Toroni.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Stylized Painting

It's hard to think of a more detailed account of the uniqueness of painting as an activity than Nigel Wentworth's book from 2004, The Phenomenology of Painting. But after a few pages, it is apparent that Wentworth is essentially only invested in a specific kind of practice.     

In one section he grapples with the issue of what comprises an artistic gesture. He asks: why is it that painters come to paint in a specific way? How do we explain an artist's stylistic consistency, the inimitable mark of the artist's hand, evident in each work they create? He seems to have an artist such as Willem de Kooning in mind, whom he writes about in an earlier section of the book.

Willem de Kooning in his studio, East Hampton, 1964
Photograph Hans Namuth

Stylistic consistency is a mixture, Wentworth argues, of habitual actions involving “complex motor capacities” and “complex sensory discrimination”. 

But he is aware that this is true of any learned skill, like typing, for instance. So he introduces a qualification. Typists encounter highly similar situations all the time, such that you can say that you "know" how to type. But this is never true for painting. Practice at painting can lead to what he terms “mastery”, yet never “knowledge”. His rationale for this is that even “great masters” can make second-rate works. Strong art, on the other hand, involves the painter maintaining a careful interplay between his or her practical store of forms of behaviour learned from previously performed actions (we might call these habitual actions), and the very particular conditions encountered in this particular painting. A balance, in other words, between repetition and innovation. 

Wentworth's account is full of statements about what constitutes "good" art. For him, it is about maintaining a delicate equilibrium between, on the one hand, consistency and, on the other, spontaneity. This image of an artist walking a precarious tightrope stretched between the recognizably familiar and the innovative is often rehearsed within art criticism. But the trope is not relevant to Single Road artists.  

Wentworth might well be scathing of an artist such as Daniel Buren, for instance, who falls short of his criteria. He would probably call the work “stylized art”, because there is no vital, or risk-filled interaction between the artist and the work. “Stylized painting”, he writes, "is a form of sclerosis - closed, repetitive and boring.”

Daniel Buren
Detail in Actual Size of a Work Executed in 1966

Daniel Buren
Detail in Actual Size of a Work Executed in 1967

Daniel Buren
Detail of a Work Executed in 1968

Daniel Buren
Detail in Actual Size of a Work Executed in 1969

Daniel Buren
Detail in Actual Size of a Work Executed in 1970

Daniel Buren
Detail in Actual Size of a Work Executed in 1971

from Daniel Buren's contribution to the exhibition catalogue
Guggenheim International Exhibition, 1971

Friday, March 1, 2013

On Kawara

On Kawara's subtitle for his Date Painting, Nov. 18, 1966:
"I collect the painted days."