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Let's Get Provisional

Post #1645 • February 20, 2014, 10:45 AM • 2 Comments

Alan Pocaro:

If you’re interested in contemporary painting you’ve probably noticed that a massive realignment in the art-world is underway. As if waking from a culturally induced coma, abstract painting is back and ready to make up for lost time. Leading the critical charge are what’s been christened “provisional” or “casual” paintings; flagship abstract styles that seem to embrace aesthetic poverty as a positive factor. Wildly diverse in scale, scope, media and quality, these paintings share few formal or technical traits and are bound together mainly by their inexplicable appeal to artists and writers alike. However, if you find the hype disproportionate to the reality of this revival of abstraction, you’re not alone. Here then, are three hypotheses that explain its current popularity.

Sharon Butler helpfully provides an expanded exposition on her original essay at her blog.

As for me, I vote for #1. We've been in a situation for a long time when so many artists are working that you could make a case for practically anthing being a movement. This gives me a more jaundiced view of curating than writing, though as a writer I cop to self-interest on that point. But possibilities #2 and #3 aren't out of the question, and are worth considering in this excellent essay, though I would quibble that modernism itself has life in it yet and not all of the arguments for it have run out of juice. A return to some of its core principles might be healthy.



Chris Rywalt

February 21, 2014, 6:50 PM

It occurs to me, reading this, for possibly the first time, that what's going on in art is what's going on in the rest of the cultural world. I've made this argument more than once on other topics and I'm surprised I haven't previously applied it to art. What's interesting about our time is, possibly for the first time in history, we have access to virtually *everything* from the past. Everything that's survived, obviously. But it's all there, at our fingertips. Beowulf and James Joyce, Koons and cave paintings, ancient Sanskrit drama and William Shatner in a movie shot entirely in Esperanto.

Just as a quick example: In the 1970s everyone wore bellbottoms because that's all they sold. If you wanted to wear pants styled as they were in the 1930s, you were out of luck. But today, forty years later, you can find clothing in all kinds of styles for sale: Bellbottoms are sold right next to straight-leg jeans in Old Navy.

There's no singular movement in art because today there's no monolithic anything in the culture.


John Link

February 24, 2014, 9:17 PM

It's #1. No doubt in my eye or mind. That's why it's not gonna last.



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