"The Painted World": P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center

By Hainley, Bruce | Artforum International, April 2006 | Go to article overview

"The Painted World": P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center


Hainley, Bruce, Artforum International


As much as curator Bob Nickas structured "The Painted World" mainly around color schemes (orchestrating rooms of black, red, green, and blue paintings, with strategic chromatic anomalies only intensifying the effect and, perhaps, signifying potential) and in terms of the way in which--as the wall text put it--"abstract painting continues to be explored and reexamined by successive generations of artists, reflecting the times in which it is made, with an awareness of, and building on, its history," this show was really centered around Wayne Gonzales's brilliant White House, 2003, whose eponymous subject matter can only be discerned at a distance.

The closer one moves to Gonzales' monochromatic, brainteasing take on pointillism in the age of pixelism, the more diffuse and disembodied the image of the Presidential residence becomes. Even at point-blank range, it defies logic: Any coherence is a kind of special effect prompting lively meditation on the viability and cogency of modes (abstraction and nonrepresentation) and medium (painting). By placing what is often seen as the absence or refraction of color--whiteness--at his show's hub via one of its most politically ambiguous and emblematically American signs, Nickas opened a dossier on how and why abstraction still engages. Further, the centrality of this painting suggests that any discourse that refuses to confront how subject matter, even in its abstraction or absence, bears on formal or conceptual issues obfuscates the aesthetic ideology that inheres in any work of art, and thus winds up supporting, implicitly, ideological forces by other, often unacknowledged means. If the title of his exhibition "seems to suggest that the show will offer pictures of the world around us, of nature, of the landscape, of a recognizable place" and if his painters "may appear less concerned with how the world looks than with how the world feels," it is, indeed, a matter of how feeling appears and how abstract and unrecognizable the world around us is. …

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