An Obituary for Painting

By Wecker, Menachem | The World and I, February 2007 | Go to article overview

An Obituary for Painting


Wecker, Menachem, The World and I


Painting, Said to Be Worth 1,000 Words, Dies at 32,007

Painting, which challenged the imaginations of countless prehistoric cave dwellers and body-pierced, tattooed Chelsea denizens alike, died last week. She was 32,007 and had a good run.

Her estranged husband, Philistine "Phil" Iconoclasm, confirmed the death, explaining that the police suspected foul play, though the case "is not as simple as Mr. Green in the drawing room with the palette knife." She died surrounded by her friends, as she lay on her hospital bed at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, where she insisted on using her broken palette as her pillow, and her faded beret sadly became her pale skin. It would hardly surprise me to read such an obituary in the newspaper. A favorite pastime of mine (I don't get out much, clearly) is to read reviews of the Whitney biennials. Although the exhibits are always the same--assemblages of new media oddities that blink and make noise with little to say--reviewers find a way to highlight what is "new" and "unique" about each show. "Biennial Shows More Paintings This Year!" they will shout one year. The headlines two years later will read, "Biennial Champions Sculpture." This form of reporting is studied in the same journalism schools as the fashion reporting that cries, "Green Is the New Black!"

If black and green are in, painting might be out. Overwhelmingly, technology is taking over galleries and museums in a move that can only be described as New Media Killed the Painting Star. Given the choice between human awkwardness in handling primitive tools like the brush and the pencil (as much of an effort in social suicide as using a dial-up Internet connection) and the slickness of the machine, museum-going publics are choosing clean, shiny and pixilated surfaces, like moths drawn to a flame. When painters do venture into the public eye, they often are too cool and aloof to get their hands dirty and make their own art. Instead, like Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, they are marketers and managers who outsource the actual painting to teams of studio assistants.

But who wants the responsibility of being the physician who pronounces art dead? I know quite a number of painters who are creating very innovative work. These painters would continue painting at all costs, and if a masked hooligan gave them the choice of their paintings or their lives, they would thoroughly consider their options. To declare painting dead would be to rudely snub those painters and countless others who continue to paint. Perhaps a better enterprise than trying to diagnose painting is to imagine what a world would be like without painting.

Courbet once recommended that the museums be shut for twenty years so artists could begin to see the world through their own eyes. If painting was allowed to die, perhaps artists would be able to see the world through different eyes, with more expansive notions of art and art making. But is there something which paintings bring that machines cannot replicate? What is truly at stake in sacrificing the human touch, and slow philosophical mode of painting for the sensationalism of digital and multimedia art?

The answer lies in surfaces. In a recent conversation about contemporary painting, my art teacher and friend wondered aloud whether people would find computers so seductive if they had matte and not shiny surfaces. If the surfaces were matte, he argued, people would hardly find them so diverting, because "you might as well be reading a book." It would follow, according to this argument, that painting, if its self preservation instinct kicked in properly, would assume a shinier form.

Arthur C. Danto's Unnatural Wonders: Essays from the Gap Between Art and Life (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2005) suggests that artist Robert Rauschenberg might have been responsible for this evolution through his "combines," which blurred the boundary between painting and sculpture/assemblage. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

An Obituary for Painting
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.