(with a Note on Post-Pop Art)
In art a likeness is an arrangement of forms that corresponds to some aspects(s) of its subject. The subject may be known only to the artist, but the spectator must at least know the coordinates of the subject if he can have a meaningful relation to the work of art. The knowledge the spectator needs is (1) specific, such as the recognition of representative human or landscape forms, and (2) conventional, a recognition that the work of art presents only a part of the external subject of which it is a likeness. (That hypothetical Martian in his first contact with earth people could not read such art.) Discussing this article beforehand, the problem of how to write about art as likeness mounted; almost everything is still to be done. Was the problem how to describe the range of figurative styles in the U.S.? Or, was the problem a definition of realist-oriented paintings developing out of Pop art? The naturalistic time of Warhol's movies seems Post-Pop art (see below), while the play of signs in his paintings is more like Pop art. Should figure painting be included along with place painting and object painting, in view of the inadequacy of so-called revivals of the figure? The last problem was the easiest to settle: rather than return to a version of the ranked genres of past art (figures first, still life last), it seemed more exact to set figurative painting as a whole against abstract art, rather than to revive past classificatory systems.
The success or, better, successes of abstract art have put figurative painting under various pressures. It is not that figurative art has ceased to be produced; on the contrary it is a statistical part of the multi‐ style abundance of this century's art. (It is this abundance, this quantity, of artists and styles which is modern about modern art, and not one particular slice of the cake, not one privileged corner. Simple choices____________________