Recapturing the Concentrated Moment

Terry Winters, Light Source Direction, 1997, oil and alkyd resin on canvas, 74 x
Terry Winters, Light Source Direction, 1997, oil and alkyd resin on canvas, 74 x 98 inches (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Recounting a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Martin Mugar reconsiders blue chip paintings including works by Susan Rothenberg, Al Held, Terry Winters, and Anselm Kiefer.

Mugar writes: "I think as long as people have a conscience and a sense of what lies underneath them, whether it is science or the void or the weight of history then painting will remain that concentrated moment, that intersection, where the self is shaped by its knowing of those realms. So I will abandon my first hunch that painting is dead. Maybe what I had to get over was the arrogance of the cartel that hyped the work, Now that the hot media presence has receded into history the paintings are left high and dry to function on their own. They are imbued with fragility. They are not supported by big ideas, just ideas. Maybe that is for the best. The New York art scene was bigger and noisier than it is now and the works were all over sized to match the egos of the artists and the dealers. The din of the battle of the titans has subsided and all that is left are the weapons created in that battle. They still communicate and maybe have more nuances than they did when they were often cudgels used to crush the competition."