Contemporary Painting: Formal Affairs

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Spurred on by the the exhibition The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (through April 5), David Geers examines the landscape of critically and institutionally sanctioned abstract painting.

An excerpt: "… while [Kerstin] Brätsch’s work is an almost-analytic deconstruction of painterly codes, artists such as Ostrowski elevate process to the status of fetishized gesture. More precisely, whereas process was once an anti-Romantic impulse in the hands of Robert Morris, Richard Serra and others, it now occupies the very place once accorded to the unique brushstroke and narrative expression. To put it differently, narrative and even biography have migrated into process. This may account for the fact that, as the term ‘zombie formalism’ suggests, so many recent abstract paintings look the same; their distinction lies in the narratives of their making. But are such narratives, trafficked like financial instruments in our new economy, sufficient? Is it enough to know that a given painting was made by collecting rainwater, using studio detritus or by using the artist’s own anesthetized hand (Ryan Estep) or a fire extinguisher (Lucien Smith)?"

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