A Resolute Materiality

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Jay Heikes, Ear of Dionysius, Collection Walker Art Center

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis will be mounting a show of paintings in February, their first group painting show in 10 years. Titled Painter Painter, the exhibit has been co-curated by Bartholomew Ryan and Eric Crosby. I was intrigued—and heartened—by their selection process, their view of the state of painting, and the easy informality of their approach. Here are a few passages from each of them, chosen because they rang true for me:

Ryan:

Painting has always been a somewhat fraught medium, and particularly so over the last 30 to 40 years. Both Eric and I avoided bringing the more trenchant dogmas associated with it into our conversations with the artists. We wanted to be more attentive to the work on its own terms and try to figure things out from there. So our earliest questions were really simple, for instance: why choose the materials of painting today, at a time when artists can work in so many other ways?

We were also interested in a question related to some of the work being made now, which one often hears from older generations of curators, historians, and even artists, which is “Where is the criticality?” There is a certain expectation today that if a painter is to continue as a painter, there has to be some basic level of self-reflexivity, some wry acknowledgment of the problematic status of continuing to paint in a postmodern era, when painting itself has been toppled from its lofty perch. I think that’s been a good thing up to a point, but it has become deadening and knee-jerk. Many of the artists in our show have consciously sidestepped that way of framing their work, and they find more interesting things to think about.

Crosby:

There’s also something about the resolute materiality of painting that continues to attract artists. These are objects that follow deeply subjective and individual ways of thinking, as expressed through specific materials. In this show you will see works that are stained, collaged, sprayed, cut up, stitched, assembled, glued, smeared, rubbed, and so on— some works are years in the making. Painting offers a frame for contact with this very physical presence. It’s a vivid contrast with our daily routine, where we experience so many images by using a cursor, linking to them, altering them, navigating away from them. Painting resists this kind of experience. A lot of artists today embrace that notion to an extreme. They go where the materials take them, not where the history of painting tells them to go.

The Walker exhibition features Matt Connors, Sarah Crowner, Fergus Feehily, Jay Heikes, Rosy Keyser, Charles Mayton, Dianna Molzan, Joseph Montgomery, Katy Moran, Alex Olson, Scott Olson, Zak Prekop, Dominik Sittig, Lesley Vance, and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung.

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4 comments

  1. Nancy Natale’s avatar

    Oh, yeah! Love that physicality and materiality resolutely.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      That love is so apparent in your work Nancy.

  2. Sally Reed’s avatar

    It’s about quiddity.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      Perfect word Sally.

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