"Painting-The Extended Field." (Art Exhibition)

By Birnbaum, Daniel | Artforum International, February 1997 | Go to article overview

"Painting-The Extended Field." (Art Exhibition)


Birnbaum, Daniel, Artforum International


MAGASIN 3 STOCKHOLM KONSTHALL & ROOSEUM

The first thing I encountered at the Rooseum were three overjoyed kids screaming ecstatically while frolicking on an enormous pink carpet, which covers the entire floor of the largest room in the institution. This hallucinatory color field is Rudolf Stingel's contribution to "Painting - The Extended Field," a collaboration between the Rooseum and Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall, curated by David Neuman and Bo Nilsson, and mounted at both locations simultaneously. The show was just reinstalled, the two parts switching institutions. This will give the fourteen artists in the show a chance to rework their installations or display entirely new pieces.

Stingel's bright pink field is certainly "extended," but in what sense is it painting? This exhibition supplies no definitions of genre; nor does it seem content to display the vitality of painting, a theme favored in any number of European exhibitions over the last couple of years. The main aspiration appears instead to be a demonstration of how painterly practices emerge in other genres, such as photography, video, sculpture, printmaking, and installation. Painting no longer appears as a strictly circumscribed mode of expression but as a zone of contagion, constantly branching out and widening its scope.

Some examples of painterly contamination seem more convincing than others. In Jessica Stockholder's case, I get the impression that I am looking at large Modernist canvases through 3-D glasses - suddenly you can enter the abstract space and walk around among lurid forms. Bowtied in the Middle, 1996, with its huge purple carpet hanging over a wooden construction, fresh oranges, and bright plastic pears, marks its relation to the wall by a number of strings, like an abstract painting attempting to free itself from the two-dimensional but unable to sever the umbilical cord. Stockholder's pieces certainly are visually pleasing, and the colors are often amazing. But they never seem to escape the sphere of pure aesthetics, and who's afraid of Purple, Orange, and Green?

One senses a similar spatial shift in Nahum Tevet's large installation (Untitled, 1995-96), which covered the floor of the first room in Magasin 3. A meticulous arrangement of hundreds of wooden slabs and blocks, the installation recalls the geometrics found in Russian Constructivist painting. Like an architectural model of an imaginary city, it conveys a strange combination of chaos and organic order. Perhaps the installation is really a portrait of the artist's hometown, Tel Aviv. Its airy and poetic atmosphere reminds me of the lightness and exactitude of Italo Calvino's novel Invisible Cities.

In terms of "extension," Luc Tuymans' infinitely subtle approach to painting seems distant from the strategies of Stockholder and Tavet. Tuymans' canvases, ranging in color from gray to gray, show sparse details of diverse objects - parts of a murky living room, a rabbit, a child's face. These things seem on the verge of disappearing altogether, and perhaps the act of painting could here be seen as a form of salvation from complete erasure. Amid the overabundance of visual data produced by technology and the media today, Tuymans' work seems to make the case that what we need is not more imagery, but less. …

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