Tactility and Opticality in Contemporary Abstract Painting
Mathus Ruiz, Miguel. 2011. Tactility and Opticality in Contemporary Abstract Painting. Other thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]
Abstract or Description
The thesis analyses the construction of surface in contemporary abstract painting and its broader implications, mainly in regard to Clement Greenberg´s understanding of modernist painting. It considers how this issue was contended between art critics such as Greenberg and Michael Fried and artists that challenged the formalist account of painting´s medium specificity through a wide range of procedures and techniques. I review Thierry de Duve´s analysis of Robert Ryman´s work in regard to Greenberg´s understanding of modernist painting and discuss the ways in which the contest between painting and photography (since photography made painting reproducible) is central.
The analysis of Ryman´s work leads to a consideration of Duchamp´s readymade and its significance to painting. Painting´s resistance to being annexed by photography follows de Duve´s contention in regard to painting-photography competitiveness where he argues that opposition to photographic reproducibility has been critical for painting since the invention of photography. At this point the historical significance of Duchamp´s readymade is regarded as a repetition of the invention of photography within the domain of painting.
The assertion is then that the key to contemporary abstract painting – what supports its attraction – is the manner in which the construction of surface is made through the reformulation of pictorial practices that were developed from the 1960s – such as Informel – and continue to be elaborated in a contemporary context in the works of artists like Katharina Grosse or Sergej Jensen. By considering Informel as a manifestation of a painting-photography contest I argue for its value in contemporary abstract painting as a means to further develop abstract painting´s potentiality, as Katharina Grosse and Sergej Jensen do through their engagement with architectural space.