Intoxicating Painting

Harris, Mark. 2016. Intoxicating Painting. Journal of Contemporary Painting, 2(2), pp. 195-218. ISSN 20526695 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article discusses a selection of abstract paintings in relation to their representation or inducement of states of intoxication. It questions the high esteem conferred on works created by intoxicated artists in comparison with the low regard in which works of Op and Psychedelic Art are held, a result it seems of the latter’s commitment to visual disorientation. Evaluation of the respective intellectual environments of New York and Paris in the 1960s reveals the ideological conditions underlying the dismissal of the paintings of European artists such as Victor Vasarely and Francois Morellet by their New York counterparts, despite the close similarities of some of their work. The judgements made by the New York milieu reveal a disinvestment in the utopian ideals and politicized avant-garde that European artists felt were sustained by the optical geometries of their paintings. It is argued that in North America similar visual vocabularies were commonly indexed to cycles of fashion in an economy driven by accelerated consumption. Evidence of new forms of intoxication in the visual languages of contemporary practices reveals the continuation of political initiatives such as Thomas Hirschhorn’s engagement of working-class communities in the liberatory theory of Georges Bataille or Donald Moffett’s representation of autonomous sites of gay ecstatic experiences. Throughout the article links are made between the imagery of painting and the intensely visual evidence of first-hand accounts of LSD experiences.

Item Type:



intoxication, abstract painting, Victor Vasarely, Francois Morellet, Op Art, Pyschedelia, Donald Moffett, Alan Shields, Cy Twombly, Walter Benjamin, Frank Stella, materiality, LSD, Michael Krebber, Ben Van Meter, Timothy Leary

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1 October 2016Published
3 February 2016Accepted

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

04 Dec 2017 13:39

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:41

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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