Monochrome: Darkness and Light in Contemporary Art 9780755603732, 9781784530488

The monochrome - a single colour of paint applied over the entirety of a canvas - remains one of the more contentious mo

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Monochrome: Darkness and Light in Contemporary Art
 9780755603732, 9781784530488

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List of Illustrations Figures 1

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Young Hay, Beijing Trip, 2000, from the ‘Bonjour, Young Hay (After Courbet)’ series. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago Photo of installation of 0.10 exhibition, St Petersburg, 1915. Collection of Charlotte Douglas, New York Miroslaw Balka 1958 –, The Unilever Series: Miroslaw Balka, How It Is, 13th October 2009 – 5th April 2010, Turbine Hall October 2009 – April 2010, steel, 13 × 30 metres. c Tate Photography 2009  c Miroslaw Balka/White  Cube Wally Hedrick, War Room, 1967–68/2002, oil on canvas, eight panels, each 11 × 5 6 . Image courtesy of the Estate of Wally Hedrick and The Box, Los Angeles. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen Hastings by Night novelty postcard, c. 1920 Juno and her handmaidens seated before the painter Zeuxis, and Parrhasius rushing to unveil his painting before a group of observers. Engraving by J.J. Von Sandrart after J. von Sandrart. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London Claude Lorrain mirror in shark skin case, believed at one time to be John Dee’s scrying mirror. Front three quarter view. Case open. Graduated grey background. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London

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Felix Gmelin, Painting Modernism Black, 1996, After Damien Hirst (1994) and Mark Bridger (1994), Iron, glass, water and ink in wooden frame, 175 × 164 × 65 cm, c DACS 2014 Courtesy Vilma Gold, London.  Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled [glossy black painting], 1951, enamel and newspaper on canvas; 71 15/16 in. × 53 in. (182.72 cm × 134.62 cm); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis; c Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA,  c Estate of Robert Rauschenberg. New York, NY.  DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2014 Radical Painting installation shot Source file for Guyton’s monochromes Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851, Venice with the Salute, circa 1840–5, oil on canvas, 622 × 927 mm. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest c Tate, London 2014 1856,  Isaac Newton, The light spectrum produced by refraction at a prism, from Optiks; 3rd edition, printed for W. and J. Innys London 1721. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting [three panel], 1951 latex paint on canvas; 72 in. × 108 in. (182.88 cm × 274.32 cm); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, c Robert Purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis;  Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, c Estate of Robert Rauschenberg. New York, NY.  DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2014 Eleanore Mikus, Tablet 55, 1963, (view of back); wood c The artist and Weldwood glue, 72 × 57 3/4 inches.  Natasha Kidd, Inflate I, II (installation shot), 2009/10. Canvas, tubing, valve, pump, aluminium trough and white c Natasha Kidd emulsion paint, 1.5m × 0.6m × 0.25m.  Interior view of the Galerie Iris Clert, bare walls and entrance draped in white, during Yves Klein’s exhibition: La sp´ecialisation de la sensibilit´e a` l’´etat mati`ere premi`ere en sensibilit´e picturale stabilis´ee, later known as that of the Void,

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Acknowledgements A publication such as this is not possible without the generosity of those artists who have kindly provided me with images of their respective practices, have responded to my questions and generally lent their support to the project. I am equally grateful to those galleries and institutions that facilitated my enquiries and to this end I would like to extend a special thanks to The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation for their support and assistance. In addition to being appreciative to the University of Northampton for its support in the publication of this book, thanks must also go to Anna Coatman at I.B.Tauris for her support, diligence and for guiding it to completion. And lastly, for the obvious and the not so obvious, I remain indebted to Judith and our three children C´eadach, Saoirse and Thora.

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Introduction: Where Images Are Not Everything is finished, color must be pure and the surface nothing but a surface, which must be covered with a single color and on which no figures must exist.1

Originally intended for the Piazza San Marco as part of the Venice Biennale in 2005, Gregor Schneider’s black cube, a three-dimensional structure measuring 14 × 13 × 13 metres took as its inspiration the Kaaba in Mecca. Although unrealised at that point, with the Biennale’s president Davide Croff citing ‘health and safety issues,’ the structure was built two years later in Hamburg, in a space that was directly adjacent to both the Kunsthalle and the Galerie der Moderne.2 The following year, Schneider made END (2008–2009), a work organised around a cubic tunnel that led to a newly designed entrance at the Museum Abteiberg, M¨onchengladbach in Germany.3 Whereas Cube Hamburg, in the words of the artist was originally ‘about dialogue between religions,’ End was closer in certain respects to other spaces that the artist has constructed that in effect turn the viewer into a so-called ‘performer-participant.’4 However, what arguably both END and Cube Hamburg shared was a connection to, if not a relationship with Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square. With regard to Cube Hamburg, this was by way of the fact that it formed part of The Black Square – Homage to Malevich, an exhibition curated by Hubertus Gardner.5 Although 1

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END was not foregrounded by Malevich’s work in the same way, and despite the huge differences in scale, END, like Malevich’s painting, was comprised of a border which framed a resolutely black quadrilateral. To this end, and to paraphrase Joseph Mashek, whether it is construed as an examination question or as a matter of pressing aesthetic concern, the legacy of Malevich’s Black Square, and one could argue by extension, the monochrome generally, continues to inflect, if not directly inform certain currents of contemporary artistic production.6 Historically entailing a single colour of paint applied more or less consistently over the entirety of a (usually square) canvas or other chosen support, the monochrome arguably remains one of the more contentious artistic strategies of what fell within the purview of modernism and the visual arts during the twentieth century. However, whilst its manufacture was invariably modest and ostensibly straightforward, its subsequent interpretation was anything but. To this end, to try to understand the manifold and often contradictory meanings the monochrome has elicited is to range over a number of discourses that have often made competing claims on its behalf. For some artists and commentators, the monochrome’s reductivist logic represented the ne plus ultra or logical end point of what had been abstraction’s pursuit and purported delimitation of painting’s material facticity, if not its essence. Conversely, others worked to imbue it with a distinctly immaterial set of resonances and meanings.7 Either way, in one sense the monochrome stood for and was characteristic of an impulse, both artistic and ideological, individual and collective, that marked the project of the avant-garde; namely, that of artistic radicalism. In this respect, the monochrome’s historical trajectory became premised upon a perceived liberation from representation, from tradition and from the realm of conventional meanings that historically had been conferred onto art generally and painting in particular. In other words an outmoded past, it was hoped, would become supplanted by the newly formed exigencies and effects of a radicalised present. Although such aesthetic and ideological ambitions are now historically remote, if not all but obsolete, the claim this book will seek to advance is that the monochrome, or some understanding thereof, remains interwoven within the arguably more situated and heterogeneous contexts of contemporary art. Indeed, rather than remain entirely beholden to the medium of painting, what is striking is its adoption, interrogation and

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re-imagination within a divergent range of practices. Whether it is Meltdown (After Yves Klein: Black), (1991) by Sherrie Levine, Auto Focus (2002) by Ceal Floyer or 1000 Hours of Staring, (1992–1997) by Tom Friedman, artists today continue to engage with an artistic and cultural form that emerged approximately one hundred years ago. Whilst the historical provenance of the monochrome has become indelibly bound up with the Russian avant-garde during the first two decades of the twentieth century, there was also a prehistory that, in one respect, worked to rehearse a subsequent set of debates that would became played out within the context of artistic modernism. As Arthur C. Danto notes: Monochromy had been available for literary exploitation since at least 1760, when Laurence Sterne displayed a black square as an emblem of death in Chapter 12 of Tristram Shandy. But it could not represent a serious option for the visual arts at that time. In a 1912 parody of the austere philosophical journal Mind a blank page was titled ‘The Absolute’ doubtless in reference to the philosophy of F. H. Bradley. But even at this late date, art history had not quite evolved to a point where monochrome painting could actually be made without it being a joke.8

According to Barbara Rose, it was in 1843 that the first monochrome was painted. With the title Vue de la Hougue (effet de nuit) and reproduced in L’Illustration. Journal Universel, the joke, as Rose notes, was at the expense of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s proto-abstractionist night scenes that he called Nocturnes.9 Approaching the production of art within a similarly sardonic vein, in the following year the French journalist and humourist Alphonse Allais exhibited a plain sheet of white paper at the Exposition des Incoh´erents. Using the particularities of the textual as a means of mobilising the paucity of the visual, Premi`ere communion de jeunes filles chlorotiques par un temps de neige or First Communion of Anaemic Young Girls In The Snow functioned as a form of proto-conceptual art. As a prefatory gesture, First Communion of Anaemic Young Girls In The Snow arguably worked to rehearse a subsequent set of debates that collectively would settle around the monochrome’s ambivalent relationship to language. Moreover, by being premised upon the notion that there was content, literal or otherwise to be seen and appreciated, the satirical nature of Allais’s gesture directly anticipated the 3

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perception that the work of modern art, far from being intellectually or aesthetically edifying, was arguably more risible, a fraudulent stunt which only worked to dissemble the fact that it was entirely bereft of merit, artistic or otherwise. As if to make this point even more forcibly, in 1897 Paul Ollenderf would publish Album Primo Avrilesque (April fool-ish Album) which, along with Allais’s previous provocations, brought together an additional five monochromatic works that were rendered in red, yellow, blue, green and brown. With titles ranging from R´ecolte de la tomate par des cardinaux apoplectiques au bord de la mer rouge (Effet d’aurore bor´eale) (Tomato Harvest by Apoplectic Cardinals on the Shore of the Red Sea [Aurora Borealis Effect] to Manipulation de l’ocre par des cocus ict´eriques (Manipulation of Ocher by Jaundiced Cuckolds), Allais’s album satirised the ambitions of a fledgling artistic modernism.10 However, although it can be seen that Allais’s provocative gestures anticipated the subsequent development of the monochrome, there remains a fundamental set of differences between what was, in effect, the monochrome’s prehistory and its genesis within the context of early European modernism. As Danto notes: Only in the most external and superficial respect does Kazimir Malevich’s 1915 black square painted on a white ground belong to this history. For one thing, Black Square is not a picture; it does not, in other words, depict a black square outside the frame. One of its immense contributions to the concept of visual art lies in the fact that it liberated the concept of painting from that of picturing and thus opened up a new era in the history of art.11

A basic admission that prefaces this study and one that the interested reader will readily discern is that the argument that follows is both discursive and partisan. For whilst the landscape of contemporary art is riven with a multitude of facets, pockets of divergent activity and is marked by an arrangement of often contrasting if not opposing approaches, for the purposes of lending what follows, at the very least, a modicum of coherency, if not perspicuity, choices were made and critical positions adopted. It is no doubt because the book is coloured by such motivations that the ensuing argument, rather than exhausting the subject at hand, encircles it and in the process of such a negotiation, hopefully confers a 4

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degree of salience onto what remains a compelling question; namely, how contemporary art wrestles with one of modernism’s more provocative, contested and value-laden artistic strategies. As is advanced within Monochrome: Darkness and Light in Contemporary Art’s first section, an engagement with a particular set of historical forms can arguably be construed as being more broadly symptomatic of a recent tendency in art that Dieter Roelstraete has termed the ‘historiographical mode.’ With regard to the adoption of this approach to production, although the examples that follow might not necessarily, as Roelstraete has described, seek to define their respective practices in relation to the ‘thickness of its relationship to history,’ nevertheless the works marshalled remain complicit with and contingent upon a particular history.12 In addition, it is perhaps worth noting from the outset that the argument that follows should not be seen as an attempt to rehearse a set of discourses that have, for the most part, all but been exhausted. So to this end, whilst the study does encompass certain instances wherein artists still somehow appear to adhere to the founding tenets of artistic modernism and specifically a mode of production that served as abstraction’s ne plus ultra, the majority of artworks that this study considers have, at the very least, an ambivalent relationship to both modernism generally and the onus it gave to the formal characteristics of painting in particular. To this end, what will become readily apparent is that the study focuses upon a significant number of examples that move beyond the purview of the monochrome’s disciplinary borders.13 Despite, in the first instance an apparent lack of complication, one of the more notable aspects of the monochrome is its inherent equivocality. As T. J. Clark postulates in Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism: ‘is it figure? Is it ground? Is it matter? Is it spirit? Is it fullness? Is it emptiness? Is it end? Is it beginning? Is it nothing? Is it everything? Is it manic assertion? Or absolute letting go?’14 Indeed, one could go so far as to say that the uncomplicated appearance of the monochrome is such that it would appear to be characterised by and characteristic of nothing. In this respect, inasmuch as what follows can be construed as an enquiry into those places and equally spaces that are, following Yves Klein, ‘empty only in appearance,’ our concern will equally attempt to render explicable the appearance of empty space.15 This is not to say that there doesn’t remain a productive tension between the two understandings. For example, whilst Young Hay’s

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Figure 1. Young Hay, Beijing Trip, 2000, from the ‘Bonjour, Young Hay (After Courbet)’ series. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago

performance Bonjour Young Hay (After Courbet), (1995–2000) wherein the artist moved through a number of cities with a blank canvas strapped to his back arguably provided the means whereby the conditions of possibility were such that the viewer’s imagination when confronted with what appeared to be ostensibly nothing could be directly provoked, Hay’s performance equally rested upon the fact that it was an incursion within the lived contingencies, and in the case of Tiananmen Square, political realities, of urban space.16 If the monochrome complicates presence through its ostensible and paradoxical uncomplicatedness, then no sooner have we begun to account for its status and condition through a process of dichotomisation which might include pairings such as neutral/partisan, equivocal/unequivocal, silent/verbose, impoverished/replete, then we find that the monochrome falls within, if not deliberately seeks out the interstitial spaces, the gaps of which only work to engender other, equally contradictory impulses or 6

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determinations. Moreover, the proclivity for the monochrome to move beyond the interpretive assurances that binary oppositions provide is also evident with regard to the fact that although the study has chosen to focus upon those works that are, broadly speaking, either black or white, the determination or not of black and white as colours has remained a perennial question. As Stephanie Rosenthal notes, the colour black’s ‘status as a color or a non-color has changed more than once over the centuries. Aristotle called white and black (light and dark) the basic colors from which all others are derived. Not until the Renaissance did black and white cease to be seen as colors.’17 Within the context of early European modernism, Piet Mondrian, writing in an essay in 1927 reiterates this position: ‘The plastic means must be the plane or the rectangular prism in primary colour (red, blue, yellow) and non-colour (white, black, grey) . . . The equivalence of the plastic means is necessary.’18 Beyond the theorisation of black and white, it would appear to be the case that both (non)colours are arguably susceptible to a degree of ontological slippage. Whilst this has presented certain challenges with regard to finding what might be construed as a language and a methodology appropriate to their status and condition, as will hopefully become apparent, it has also provided the basis wherein a broader ranges of thematics can become aligned with the works themselves. Most immediately, and as the sub heading of this study denotes, this has meant that the related themes of light and darkness have, at the very least, been broached. For example, whilst black ostensibly functioned as a form of negativity, as something of which, paradoxically, it was not, a set of meanings nevertheless has historically become constructed that collectively have worked to elicit a set of emotional responses by way of harnessing black’s associations, most notably, with death and finality. Again, this interpretation was deeply resonant with certain artists. For example, according to Wassily Kandinsky: ‘Black has an inner sound of nothing bereft of possibilities, a dead nothingness as if the sun had become extinct, an external silence without future, without hope. It is like the silence of the body after death, the close of life.’19 Implicit within Kandinsky’s proclamation is the understanding that as terms blackness and darkness were, to a certain extent, mutually inclusive. Arguably it was through such a conflation that what was foregrounded were the connotations that black, whether perceived as a colour or as a non-colour, possessed.20 That said, it is worth noting from the outset that

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on a basic level the analysis contained herein has stemmed from what were the argument’s fundamental allegiances with the works themselves rather than from an ambition to provide a cultural history of either darkness or light. Where such thematics have seemed appropriate in terms of the determinations of a particular work’s meaning, then they have been broached. What then follows, to paraphrase John Cage, is a consideration not of where and how images are, but rather the contexts and moments of contemporary art where images are not.21

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1 Fathoming Darkness: Arrested Vision and Monochromacity in the Work of Balka, Whiteread and Paterson The 0.10 exhibition opened on Saturday 19 December 1915 in what was, according to Linda S. Boersma, ‘one of the very few galleries for modern art in Russia.’1 Overlooking the Field of Mars, one of Petrograd’s largest municipal spaces, Madame Nadezhda Dobychina’s ‘Art Burea’ was, as Boersma notes, ‘one of the first private galleries in Russia to sell avant-garde art.’2 Whereas the zero in the title was suggestive of a perceived starting point wherein the habits of tradition, for all intents and purposes, could be expunged, (writing in a letter to the composer Mikhail Vasilievich Matiushin in May 1915, Kasimir Malevich claimed that ‘we intend to reduce everything to zero . . . [and] will then go beyond zero’), the ten denoted the original number of contributing artists.3 Within the gap that became inscribed between the zero and the ten, the conditions of possibility for an entirely novel form of artistic practice, it was envisaged, would necessarily emerge. The exhibition presented approximately 150 works by artists including Liubov Popova, Zhenia Boguslavskaia, Ivan Puni, Maria Vasileva, Natan Altman and Vladimir Tatlin. Malevich was represented by a series of 39 paintings. Some of his canvases had titles such as Painterly Masses in Movement and Painterly Masses in Two Dimensions in a State of Rest, titles 11

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Figure 2. Photo of installation of 0.10 exhibition, St Petersburg, 1915. Collection of Charlotte Douglas, New York

which, although somewhat generic in scope and import, nevertheless sought to elide overtly literal content in favour of evocations, at the very least, of potentially universal or universalising themes and principles. However, others were more explicit in their representational determination and included Painterly Realism of a Football Player – Color Masses of the Fourth Dimension. Taken collectively, and as Bruce Altshuler points out, the unifying characteristic of all of the 39 canvases was their nonformal content, content that was in one sense governed by a transcendentalist set of convictions: ‘With very different means he returns to the symbolist quest for a higher metaphysical reality, believing that the new man – and the new woman – would develop a sensibility able to transcend gross materiality.’4 This was also the case for Malevich’s Black Square, an oil painting on canvas measuring 53.5 × 53.5cm that, as a photograph taken at the time suggests, had been hung at a 90 degree angle in an elevated position between two of the gallery’s walls. Of the five extant photographs taken of the 0.10 exhibition, two are of single works by Vladimir Tatlin and Ivan Kluin. One consists of a 12

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portrait and the other two are installation shots, the first of which shows two reliefs made by Tatlin whilst the second shows part of the room where Malevich’s work was hung.5 In one sense, the artist’s own desire to conflate Black Square with a set of meanings that extended beyond the logico-empirical was given through the position it tendentiously occupied within the physical space of the exhibition. According to Alison Hilton: The spiritual focus of the home was the icon corner, located diagonally opposite the oven. Called the krasny ugol (“red” or “beautiful corner”), it had at least one icon, sometimes an icon case (bozhnitsa or kiot), and usually a small table holding candles and family mementoes beneath. Anyone entering the izbe [peasant house] would bow to the icons before greeting the hosts or speaking. Guests of honor were seated in the icon corner, and matchmaking rituals and parts of the marriage rites were conducted there. When a member of the family died, the body would be laid out so that the head lay closest to the icon corner, and the feet near the door.6

Whilst the critical response the painting engendered was certainly disparaging, if not unequivocally dismissive, being described as, inter alia, ‘a dead square,’ ‘a void’ and the ‘embodiment of emptiness,’ on one level such pejorative descriptions remained entirely apposite.7 Unsurprisingly, Malevich’s own understanding of the painting differed somewhat, considering the monochrome as a tangible expression of the infinite as it was given through non-objectivity. Indeed, according to Branislav Jakovljevic, the artist ‘saw Black Square as the simplest possible declaration of non-objectivity. The first non-objective painting is not only without objects represented in it. It is also without objective: without an end and endless at the same time.’8 Although the painting was characterised by a singular determination of form, a determination that appeared to be without precedent, the artist had already begun to explore its possibilities within the set designs he had been working on during 1913 for Victory Over the Sun, an opera for the St Petersburg Union of Youth. As John Golding notes, these were inflected by the innovative approaches to representation that had first been instigated by Cubo-Futurism. Accordingly, ‘the curtain for Act II, Scene 5, consisted of a simple square against a white background; and it is possible that when Malevich saw this geometric emblem hanging 13

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motionless in the theatrical arc lights it appeared to him all of a sudden strangely numinous, filled with some breathless, expectant hidden truth.’9 Indeed, the artist inscribed on the back of one of the subsequent variants of the original Black Square the following: ‘Suprematism 1913 the initial element first manifested itself in Victory Over the Sun.’10 Setting out the artist’s intentions for the work that was included within the 0.10 exhibition was an accompanying pamphlet entitled ‘From Cubism to Suprematism. The New Painterly Realism.’11 Within it, Malevich declared that the ‘square is a living, regal infant.’12 As it was, Black Square was taken to be emblematic of both the perceived obsolescence of traditional approaches to painting and as ‘face of the new art.’13 However, for all of the shock and the incredulity the novelty of Black Square engendered, it wasn’t the first historical instance wherein the iconography of the black monochrome functioned, in effect, as a cipher for a metaphysical interpretation of the infinite. Between 1617 and 1621 Utriusque cosmi Maioris scilicet et Minoris, metaphysica, physica atque technica historiae or ‘The metaphysical, physical and technical history of the two worlds, namely the greater and the lesser’ was published. Written by the English physician and polymath Robert Fludd, the two worlds of which the title referred to were those of the microcosm and the macrocosm.14 Of the 60 engravings that were included within its five volumes, perhaps the most striking is the image of a black square, which is bracketed along each of its four sides with the words ‘Et sic in infinitum,’ (and so on indefinitely). Fludd had intended his own black monochrome to signify the primordial, undifferentiated darkness prior to the beginning of time. In fact, a more pointed interpretation of the engraved black square can be developed if we consider the fact that amongst Fludd’s broad range of interests was the esoteric science of alchemy. To this end, it could be argued that one interpretation of the black square was that it denoted the etymological root of the term ‘alchemy’ that meant black earth or black soil. For the alchemists, this undifferentiated or so-called ‘first’ matter, matter that was nevertheless fecund, (just as the black soil was that derived from the banks of the River Nile and that had originally contributed to the provenance of the term), would then be transformed.15 Whether or not this is indeed the case, arguably both Fludd and Malevich sought to harness the illimitability of the black monochrome as a ploy wherein the limitations imposed upon the image by a normative

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set of representational conventions could be sidestepped, if not entirely outflanked. In so doing, and beyond what on one level was an ‘interpretation of Genesis in alchemical terms,’ Fludd’s adoption of the black square, of a black square wrestled, like Malevich’s own non-image or un-image, with the conditions of possibility for a separate modality of representation to become engendered.16 With regard to Malevich’s Black Square, and more broadly the operative characteristics of the colour it is organised around, Angeline Morrison has observed that: The choice of the colour black is significant and also problematizes meaning. As the absence of all light, black represents the absence of sight. As light is the condition through which the human eye is able to apprehend visually, when light is taken away it leaves no possibility of seeing at all. The Black Square can thus be read as the ultimate painterly paradox: a visual image that tells of the impossibility of seeing, embodied in an object whose very reason for existing is to be seen.17

Through its tendentious withdrawal away from the assurances sight invariably provides, one is able to discern a comparable paradoxical state, albeit it upon a very different set of terms, and through a markedly separate set of material structures, within a work the artist Miroslaw Balka made in 2009. Broadly resembling an oversized shipping container, (although its heft is far more imposing than even the largest standardized unit), the structure stands on a series of two-metre stilts which affords its viewing audience the opportunity to orient themselves both around and underneath it.18 Approaching the work along one of the two 30 metre length sides of the structure, the entrance is reached by ascending a ramp that bridges the exterior space of the Turbine Hall with the cavernous space of the container. Upon initially entering the structure, the proximity of other viewers can be discerned. However, moving further into the space the visibility, if not the physical presence of others begins to recede. It is from this point that the viewer is forced to become increasingly reliant upon their intuitive and proprioceptive grasp of what constitutes their immediate surroundings. By divesting reliance upon the faculty of sight, any further progress within what is now virtual darkness is awkward, hesitant and at times clumsy. It is at this point that many gravitate towards the interior sidewalls of the space, privileging the assurances offered by 15

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Figure 3. Miroslaw Balka 1958 –, The Unilever Series: Miroslaw Balka, How It Is, 13th October 2009 – 5th April 2010, Turbine Hall October 2009 – April 2010, c Tate Photography 2009  c Miroslaw Balka/White Cube steel, 13 × 30 metres. 

touch rather than the more ill-defined information being relayed both visually and aurally. Interestingly, the walls have been lined with a black, felt-like material that has the twofold effect of dampening the proclivity for the space to be echoic whilst at the same time absorbing any remaining sources of vestigial light. Eventually, and now enveloped within a blanket of almost complete darkness, the end wall is broached. Whilst physically one is unable to move any further through and into the space, by turning around to face the entrance and having the faculty of sight partially returned, what can now be determined are the silhouettes of those viewers who are positioned at the work’s entrance. 16

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If we are to apply Morrison’s statement to How It Is, the question is thus: within the veiled darkness of the space and within the impossibility of seeing, what is to be seen? Arguably, the response to this question would work outwards from an admission that whilst How It Is can be understood with regard to artistic precedent, what makes the work arguably more compelling, and, for that matter, most demanding, is the bearing it has on the idea of collective memory and trauma.19 To this end, Balka takes the limitations of both perception and representation and situates these questions, questions that previously had pertained to the monochrome, and applies them to the context of Germany’s recent history. Paulo Herkenhoff has sought to articulate this particular thread that is indelibly woven through Balka’s imposing structure: Babi Yar is a ravine in Kiev (Ukraine). In 1941, an estimated 33,771 Jews were killed in a single massacre by Sonderkommande 4. The Jews were herded to the bottom of the ravine to be shot. The site became the largest collective tomb of the Shoah . . . How It Is becomes a vicarious memorial for the yar, described in Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem Babi Yar as the ‘soundless scream.’ Darkness is Balka’s mode of sculpting the depths of the ravine of uncertainty in the history of the holocaust. He works with lightless vision to make a primal step into that uncertainty, which motivates him to draw, with dramatic containment, an association with an earthly hell.20

More broadly, as Herkenhoff observes, ‘How It Is addresses its critical versatility both to the hidden spaces of the extermination camps and to exhibitionist Nazi architecture.’21 Although War Room (1967–68/2002) by Wally Hedrick functions not so much as a memorial, vicarious or otherwise, being more akin to a makeshift bunker or indeed a temporary shelter, it too can be seen to address the conflation of architecture with historical memory. Moreover, the monochrome’s disarticulation of the work of art from normative representational schemas, an idea that Black Square ushered in and that How It Is both adopts and adapts also functions as the conceptual underpinning for War Room. Originally begun in 1967, War Room consists of a total of eight monochromatic canvases, each eight feet high and five feet wide that 17

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Figure 4. Wally Hedrick, War Room, 1967–68/2002, oil on canvas, eight panels, each 11 × 5 6 . Image courtesy of the Estate of Wally Hedrick and The Box, Los Angeles. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen

have been attached to each other to form a square-shaped, rudimentarylooking room. Each of its four sides is comprised of two canvases that have been turned 180 degrees so that they collectively turn inwards and face each other. As a result, the outside of the structure is comprised of what ordinarily is concealed from view, namely the cross bar and the folded edges of the canvas that run along each edge of the painting’s stretcher frame. On one of the four sides of the structure a door has been created that, functioning as some form of portal, allows the work’s audience to access the internal space that has been created. The actual surfaces of the paintings have been covered with a viscous-like layer of black oil paint. In fact, each canvas has been over-painted several times. Stemming from a related body of black monochrome paintings entitled the Vietnam series that were produced between 1957–1973, the canvases were first over-painted in 1967 and were partly a demonstration of the artist’s political stance in relation to the Vietnam War. Subsequently repainted in 1992 during the time of the first Gulf War, Hedrick would rework these canvases one last time in 2003, against the backdrop of a second Gulf War.22 18

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The inclination to deal directly with the consequences of America’s foreign policy was undoubtedly shaped by his own experiences serving in the US Army during the Korean War. Indeed, in an interview recorded with Hedrick in 1974, the artist’s description of the construction and design of the artwork appeared to become analogous to the development of America’s military involvement in the Vietnam War: I don’t mind being pinned down about it because I was very strongly and violently against the war. It didn’t take hold, I mean, the paintings got bigger as the war got bigger. And in ‘68 when I made The Room which is a 12-foot square room, that’s when our involvement was at its height. But it’s been pointed out to me by some other people, that I left a door in this structure. So even though you’re in there and it appears to be a solid structure, there’s a way out.23

Interestingly, whilst Hedrick’s admission that there was ‘a way out’ is analogous to the understanding that his country’s foreign policy in South East Asia was, for him at least, reversible, (an understanding that, shortly after this admission proved to be correct), it is notable that when inside War Room, the conditions of possibility are such that the structure could be read as functioning, as has already been suggested, as some form of bunker or makeshift shelter. In this sense, a comparison can be drawn between War Room and Closet (1988), a sculptural work by the artist Rachel Whiteread that consists of the cast of a wardrobe that has been covered in black felt. Whiteread has previously said that this work and others that were produced during the early part of her career were all very particular pieces of furniture – cheap post-war furniture – which I somehow wanted to immortalize, to give a kind of grandness. I was trying to make a space that I was very familiar with and that a lot of people would be very familiar with. And I have a very clear image of, as a child, sitting at the bottom of my parents wardrobe, hiding among the shoes and clothes, and the smell and the blackness and the little chinks of light, and I was really trying to illustrate that . . . I was trying to make that space solid.24

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tangible, part of Closet’s reading is bound up with the idea of the wardrobe as some form of refuge that provides a temporary home to the psychic dimension of those who dwell within it.25 It is perhaps because of the addition of the outer layer of black felt, an addition or further embellishment that the artist would choose not to adopt for subsequent works, that makes such a reading possible and that equally makes the work seemingly rich in allusion. Certainly, the original ambition of wanting to evoke a space inhabited by children inscribes an affinity with C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Indeed, both the children’s novel and the work itself are in one respect organised around the wardrobe functioning as some form of liminal space, a space that whilst for Whiteread was both experiential and autobiographical, for Lewis was arguably more imaginary. To this end, although the ‘device of a portal into fantasy can be found in scores of books and movies,’ as Katharine A. Fowkes notes ‘[d]oors . . . suggest physically entering another world and are therefore powerful symbols for stories seeking to combine a primary world with a separate, self-contained secondary world.’26 Indeed, the imaginary realm of the wardrobe did not go unremarked by Gaston Bachelard in his La po´etique de l’Espace (The Poetics of Space), a phenomenological study of architectural space first published in 1958. Writing in a chapter entitled ‘Drawers, Chests and Wardrobes,’ Bachelard observed that wardrobes ‘with their shelves . . . are veritable organs of the secret psychological life. Indeed, without these “objects” and a few others in equally high favor, our intimate life would lack a model of intimacy. They are hybrid objects, subject objects. Like us, through us and for us, they have a quality of intimacy.’27 Given such associations, it would appear to be the case that both Hedrick’s piece and Closet are reliant upon the idea of carriage, either, and with regard to the former, an understanding that is reliant upon the viewer physically moving into and indeed out of the ‘room,’ or, and in the case of Closet, as adumbrating a liminal space or threshold that is closely bound up with the praxis of so called ‘memory work.’28 Arguably, because of the process of casting that Whiteread has adopted and which works to dissemble any incidental characteristics the original object might once have had, Closet ostensibly renders the object devoid of utility. In addition, it’s difficult not to read the work as an ossified form. Certainly Whiteread herself has perceived the effects of her practice as

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being bound up with what we might describe is a phenomenology of the sepulchral. With respect to Ghost, a work the artist made in 1990 and which consisted of a cast of an entire room of a house in Archway, North London, Whiteread has spoken of this work in terms of ‘mummifying the air in a room’ which, rather than necessarily being morbid, was for the artist ‘a way of poetically describing it.’29 However, and in the case of Closet, arguably such associations of a form being, as it were, interred are suggested by the enclosing darkened surface of the work. Whiteread’s working process that entails the ‘interior as exterior’ is also evident within a more ambitious project the artist realized in 2000.30 Unveiled in October of that year and after a series of prolonged and at times fraught discussions with the Austrian authorities, the Holocaust Memorial was positioned within the historically resonant Judenplatz in Vienna. In what is in effect an inverted library cast in concrete, the memorial, Austria’s first, was in remembrance of the 65,000 Austrian Jews killed during the Holocaust. Indeed, in one sense the ‘book’ functions as the governing trope with regard to the memorial’s ostensible set of meanings. Accordingly: ‘The memorial’s shelves are filled with seemingly endless copies of the same book, a reference to the vast number of victims and their life stories; books now forever closed. It is an inverted and hermetic library: the books do not reveal their content and their spines remain invisible.’31 However, unlike with the examples we have considered thus far, any notion of carriage between spaces, be it real or imagined is forestalled by the very fact that, as Anthony Vidler notes, the ‘double doors, offering the possibility of entering or leaving, are hermetically sealed.’32 Certainly, and following Tarabukin’s emphatic defense of the monochrome canvas as a ‘blind wall,’ the ontology of Whiteread’s construction is such that information is withheld, vision is occluded and access points of passage within and through the ‘library’ remain indefinitely closed off.33 Although Closet instantiates an implied rather than what could be construed as an actual darkness, like Balka’s structure, it is, at the very least, tangential to what Holocaust Memorial literalises, namely the idea of a sculptural or three-dimensional form which entails what we might deem to be a memorialising impulse. Such a reading would certainly be apposite if we concur with Arthur C. Danto’s observation wherein whilst

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monuments ‘commemorate the memorable and embody the myths of beginnings . . . [m]emorials ritualize remembrance and mark the reality of ends . . . The memorial is a special precinct, extruded from life, a segregated enclave where we honor the dead.’34 If Malevich’s Black Square, although we can arguably extend the following observation to Balka’s installation as well, speaks of ‘the impossibility of seeing,’ then that which cannot be perceived has its equivalent within that which purports to be resistant to language. For on one level, what connects Balka’s installation with Malevich’s black monochrome is their proclivity to round upon a particular discourse of the ineffable, a discourse that, with regard to the ideas Malevich first sought to propound in 1915, stem from ‘the construction of forms out of nothing [and that are] discovered by intuitive reason.’35 Whilst this understanding when applied to Black Square centres upon its non-representational status whose ontology remains circumscribed by an aesthetic set of determinants that were put to the service of what Malevich understood was a certain affective transcendentalism, in the case of Balka’s installation, the ineffable inevitably spills over into the particular historical moment already described by Paulo Herkenhoff.36 However, and notwithstanding the problematic nature of claiming that the Holocaust is somehow beyond the reproach of both representation and language, for the purposes of our study our interest resides within a broader epistemological question: can a monochromatic form ‘image’ anything apart from its own formal characteristics? More broadly, and a question that marks this study as a whole, does constructing a form out of nothing produce a constructed nothing? If so, how might this nothing be approached, be considered, be interpreted? Indeed, the bemusement that the monochrome historically has engendered within its respective audience, a bemusement that on one level has elicited its audience to pronounce words to the effect of ‘there’s nothing there’ can be developed, if not understood, through the popular conception of its putative unfathomability. Historically, this has been more broadly bound up with the proclivity for the more extreme gambits of the artistic avant-garde to tendentiously present its audience with ‘difficulty.’ As an initial, albeit indirect response to a question that inflects our undertaking as a whole, it is perhaps worth noting that the idea that the monochrome is somehow ‘unfathomable’ operates and is given upon two further interpretive levels.

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Firstly, and as we have already seen, this can be construed by way of the idea that artists have sought recourse to a variant of the black monochrome as the means whereby the unfathomability of recent historical events can be broached.37 In this sense, the uninflected darkness that envelops the viewer, as in the case of How It Is, becomes analogous to the impenetrability of those events and the difficulty of identifying the necessary means whereby the contingencies of its trauma can become acknowledged, if not articulated. More broadly, the tendentious conflation of black with darkness mobilises a set of meanings that are bound up with the idea of finality and the means by which the manifold set of associations that black has with death can be harnessed.38 A further understanding with regard to the black monochrome’s unfathomability concerns the idea that it is incapable of being comprehended due to it being spatially unbounded. In this respect, the darkness that the black monochrome engenders is not understood in relation to finality or finiteness but rather the antithesis, namely as an illimitable expanse of what is, in this case, an ostensibly indeterminate, if not infinite spatial field.39 To this end, rather than the impenetrability of historical trauma, Katie Paterson’s History of Darkness is keyed in to what is an attempt to map an unbounded, impenetrable darkness.40 Begun in 2010, History of Darkness, is an ongoing project that seeks to chart or indeed, to fathom, the unfathomable, that is instances of darkness as they have existed and have been documented during the billions of years of its history. Presented as a slide archive, inscribed alongside each individual image is the physical distance of the image of darkness from Earth that is written in light years. Moreover, the slides are arranged from one to infinity. In an interview published in 2010, the artist spoke of the inherent contradictions that pertain to such a project. I think there is never a way to represent, see or know all the darkness in the universe, so it’s a kind of infinite journey, and a futile one, to try to capture it on a human scale, and make it an entity. The images are uprooted – they refer to places/times/spaces that could be anything and anywhere, with no definite beginning or end. I like to think that while they show ‘nothing’ they are also latent with the future and all things that came after.41

As an artwork that is reliant upon the audience’s imagination to the extent wherein the darkness that is pictured can arguably only be conceptualised 23

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Figure 5. Hastings by Night novelty postcard, c. 1920

rather than be directly represented, (although somewhat paradoxically the slides themselves do aspire to function veridically), History of Darkness rehearses the proclivity for Malevich’s own Black Square to dichotomise the visible, that is, and as has already been observed, to speak of the impossibility of seeing through that which exists solely to be seen. This is perhaps where Paterson’s slides differ from, for example, the vernacular representation of darkness as it can be found in certain humorous postcards. In much the same way that Allais and Ollenderf’s titles worked to counter the purported indecipherability of the image it accompanied, the only information these monochromatic postcards contain is a brief caption reminding the recipient that what they are looking at is a particular place or location at night. However, whilst in their unyielding monochromacity, Paterson’s slides are given through an understanding that the ‘spaces’ they represent, to the extent wherein they entail mimesis, are necessarily indeterminate, the more jocular postcards function as markers, to the extent wherein they entail diegesis, of the ostensible geographical location of the sender. In this sense, whilst formally, if not stylistically, the darkness of the postcard is broadly comparable to the darkness of Paterson’s slides, the categories of their respective darknesses, to borrow an ontological term, differ. 24

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Although both ostensibly work to particularise darkness, either through an estimated distance or by way of a proper name, unlike the (non)images that have been slowly accruing within History of Darkness, the ‘darkness’ represented by Hastings by Night is entirely fictive; here the ostensibly empirical becomes tendentiously supplanted by what is, in effect, a base mimetic approximation.42 The determination of Malevich’s Black Square as a caesura which worked to disrupt the visible engendered, as we have seen, a set of discourses which construed it as, inter alia, ‘a void’ and the ‘embodiment of emptiness.’ Although pejorative in their original usage, such descriptions nevertheless denoted a point at which normative codifications of vision and knowledge become momentarily arrested, if not indefinitely postponed. Moreover, such descriptions seem entirely apt when applied to History of Darkness and, moreover, are perhaps suggestive of the fact that unfathomability can be construed as a thematic, albeit one that operates on a macro level. To this end, a useful counterpoint to Paterson’s work and one that operates on what is a micro level is Hostage.pt.1 by Frederick de Wilde. The conditions of possibility for this work to be understood as being the world’s blackest painting which has been made from the blackest black derives from the utilisation of nanotechnology. To this end, the surface of Hostage.pt.1 is comprised of carbon nanotubes that have been grown on some form of substrate. Consequently, virtually all of the light that is within its circumscribed field becomes absorbed. Rather than an unbounded past, which History of Darkness arguably becomes aligned with, if not resigned to, Hostage.pt.1 on one level functions as an unbounded present. Of course, the basic understanding that de Wilde’s work is premised on, namely that black has the proclivity to absorb light is an empirical fact that artists have perennially used to their advantage. The Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell’s assertion that black ‘does not reflect, but absorbs all light; that is its essential nature,’ can arguably be taken as being more broadly symptomatic of a proclivity for that generation of artists to be drawn towards what might be construed of as the fundamentals of painting, fundamentals that could be accessed more readily if the complexities of colour could be relinquished.43 To this end, and writing two years later in an exhibition catalogue that accompanied an exhibition of the New York School that was staged at the Los Angeles

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County Museum in 1965, Maurice Tuchman would make the following assertion: The use of black, this simplicity not so simple, is one of a cluster of renunciations made by painters in the period ca. 1947–53. By cutting down the number of colors, painters were able to increase their speed without losing their control . . . Thus black was the center of the widespread postwar desire to invest abstract art with a momentous subject or, to put it the other way round, to have an expressive art not slowed down by the need to represent objects.44

Interestingly, de Wilde has sought to critically position Hostage.pt.1 within a historical trajectory that one might posit encompasses Tuchman’s aforementioned claim. Within his artist’s statement, de Wilde claims that his intention is to ‘contextualize this particular artwork within the rich history of painting. References are the Renaissance painter Caravaggio, Kazimir Malevich, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and Yves Klein amongst others.’45 In the first instance, the delineation of this trajectory is given through the various instances wherein artists displayed a preoccupation with the color black. In addition, and notwithstanding the Baroque, psychologically charged Mise-en-sc`enes of Caravaggio, de Wilde’s roll call can also be understood as artists who have sought to utilise, in their respective ways and to a greater or lesser extent, monochromacity. However, one could arguably posit a third understanding of this trajectory that in effect is premised upon what Michel Foucault described was the ‘accumulated existence of discourses.’ It is towards this idea that we will now direct our attention.46

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2 Accumulating Discourses: Trajectories, Contingencies and Mutations In Book XXXV of Natural History or Naturalis Historia, an encyclopedia first published towards the latter half of the first century, the natural philosopher Pliny the Elder sought to recount the various exploits of artists that lived and worked in the ancient world. Within the thirty sixth chapter, entitled ‘Artists Who Painted With the Pencil,’ Pliny the Elder describes one particular incident wherein two rival painters who lived during the fifth century BCE entered into a competition.1 The contemporaries and rivals of Zeuxis were Timanthes, Androcydes, Eupompus, and Parrhasius . . . This last, it is said, entered into a pictorial contest with Zeuxis, who represented some grapes, painted so naturally that the birds flew towards the spot where the picture was exhibited. Parrhasius, on the other hand, exhibited a curtain, drawn with such singular truthfulness, that Zeuxis, elated with the judgment which had been passed upon his work by the birds, haughtily demanded that the curtain should be drawn aside to let the picture be seen. Upon finding his mistake, with a great degree of ingenuous candour he admitted that he had been surpassed, for that whereas he himself had only deceived the birds, Parrhasius had deceived him, an artist.2

On one level, the pursuit of and infatuation with the real and, moreover, the fervent rivalry that, in the case of Parrhasius and Zeuxis it appeared 27

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Figure 6. Juno and her handmaidens seated before the painter Zeuxis, and Parrhasius rushing to unveil his painting before a group of observers. Engraving by J.J. Von Sandrart after J. von Sandrart. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London

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the goal towards which the image moves is the perfect replication of a reality existing ‘out there’ already, and all its effort is consumed in the elimination of those obstacles which impede the reproduction of that prior reality: the intransigence of the physical medium; inadequacy of manual technique; the inertia of formulae that impede, through their rigidity, accuracy of registration.3

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to induce was for the sake of what the art historian Norman Bryson has called the essential copy. As Bryson notes in Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze,

Moreover, contained within the pursuit of the essential copy were the conditions of possibility, if not the promise, that ‘art will take the palm from nature.’4 During the Quattrocento, this preoccupation with what is in effect a veridical representation of nature became formalised, or so it was thought, through the protocols of one-point mathematical perspective.5 To this end, what perspective purported were the conditions of possibility for the external world to be systematically mapped.6 Within the context of Renaissance art, concurrent with such an understanding was the idea that painting was somehow analogous to a window. This foundational model of painting, set out by the architect and theorist Leon Battista Alberti, was premised upon painting’s ability to proffer but more importantly frame a lifelike image that was invariably given through its fidelity with nature.7 Understood as a vector whose trajectory was centrifugal, the Albertian ‘frame’ necessarily implied, if not always entailed, a trajectory outwards towards a reality that painting would seek to faithfully replicate. In very broad terms, whilst this moment that pertains to painting’s history was premised upon the idea of verisimilitude, to proffer a vector whose direction is centripetal is to make certain claims on its behalf that collectively rest, inter alia, upon the artwork’s purported autonomy, claims that increasingly gained critical traction as the twentieth century unfolded. Certainly, and in this respect, given the fact that one of the implications of autonomy, according to Stephen P. Waring ‘is that art criticism becomes increasingly significant,’ one is able to begin to understand why and how within the context of the twentieth century, the formalist criticism of Clement Greenberg gained such a foothold.8 ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch,’ Clement Greenberg’s article originally published in the journal Partisan Review in the autumn of 1939 provided 29

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one of the first opportunities for the formalist art critic to formulate his vision for a modernist conception of the artwork, a conception that was intrinsically beholden to the founding tenet of autonomy. Taking the artistic precedents that had already emerged in Paris at the beginning of the twentieth century as a critical point of departure, Greenberg set out what were, in effect, a series of ground rules. Essentially divisive in intent, they necessarily conceived the cultural production of a society within hierarchical terms. As a result of what he claimed was the necessary presence of a ‘social interval,’ Greenberg disarticulated the means of cultural production of the avant-garde from that which was deemed kitsch through the fact that, according to him at least, whereas the former ‘imitates the processes of art’ the latter ‘imitates its effects.’9 With such a claim in mind, Andrew Benjamin has more recently written that the ‘work’ of the Greenbergian object, by bracketing out any properties that were deemed to be extraneous or unnecessary, becomes read in terms of the fact that the ‘activity of the object . . . cannot be divorced from its existence.’10 This results in a situation wherein: ‘Rather than demanding of the object that it presents that which is exterior to it and be positioned, and interpreted, in terms of its representation, here the internal operation of the object and the way it presents itself are taken to be the locus of signification.’11 Whilst Greenberg’s reduction of the artwork was given through the privileging of that which was considered to be unique to a particular medium’s area of competence, within the context of postwar American modernist art, an equivalent series of reductive set of impulses were also being rehearsed within other contexts of production and artistic discourse.12 So for example, Alan R. Soloman, writing in the catalogue essay that accompanied the exhibition Black and White which was held at the Jewish Museum in New York in 1963 makes the following observation: ‘Like the expansion of the scale of painting, the reduction of means represented by the elimination of color and the use of pure black and white became a major area of exploration for painters in the late forties, the early fifties and subsequently.’13 Indeed, this exhibition represents an interesting case in point because in many respects it stands at the threshold wherein the progenitors of the new idiom of abstraction through the pared down means of black and white are acknowledged, To this end Ben Heller, writing in the catalogue’s foreword notes that ‘[b]lack and white painting started in this country

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in the late forties. Somehow the idea and its possibilities attracted many of the leaders of what we now call the Abstract Expressionists.’14 The exhibition also sets out the conditions of possibility for such a strategy to extend beyond the rationale of what had been, within the context of postwar modernist practice in the United States, the dominant, if not hegemonic artistic movement. To this end, and in same section of the exhibition catalogue Heller claims: ‘This is another characteristic of the contemporary permission: the unselfconscious use of two colors as sufficient means to create a painting. And from two colors it is an easy step into monochrome, into what some have called “negative painting.”’15 Of course, what Heller rehearses within this statement had already happened to the extent wherein there had already been notable instances of ‘negative’ painting that had been produced at particular moments during the first half of the twentieth century and within a divergent range of artistic contexts. However, and as will be educed, the ostensible reductionism of monochrome painting, if we can indeed call it such, was fundamentally different in scope and import from Greenberg’s own attempts to articulate an account of painting through what were deemed to be its unique characteristics. With regard to the formalist criticism of the latter, a significant number of figures have marginalised, if not entirely ruled out this methodological approach to the interpretation of the artwork. The corollary of this repudiation has meant that the constitutive elements it became characterised by have arguably befallen the same fate. For example, according to Thomas McEvilley, it is the implied teleology of Greenberg’s criticism and moreover, what it worked to dissemble that became highly problematic. The formalist view of art as a series of historically necessary developmental sequences was more than discredited; insofar as it had functioned as a kind of cover story for the claim of the superiority of Western culture and the centrality of its history within the whole, that view of art came to seem not merely misguided but positively harmful and, in puritanical abreaction, a kind of force of evil.16

Of course, Book XXXV of Natural History is equally premised upon such ‘developmental sequences’ of historical self-consciousness wherein ‘one artist after another surpasses his predecessors in achievement measured by the attainment of verisimilitude.’17 Moreover, and as with the case 31

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of Greenberg’s criticism, the motivating force appears to be an aesthetic ideal that, tacit or otherwise, artists such as Parrhasius were progressively moving towards. Indeed, with regard to the ‘motivating mechanism of mimesis’ and its construal as a form of teleology, James S. Ackerman has noted that ‘Pliny’s evolutionary historical framework was implicit in his simplistic conception of the aims of art: since art moved ahead as it came closer to nature, it could be discussed in the same way as the history of technology, each successive achievement representing an advance toward a goal and in some way rendering its predecessors obsolete.’18 If both Pliny the Elder’s anecdote and Greenberg’s criticism privileged a certain mode of interpretation that was premised upon a particular set of assumptions, it was arguably poststructuralism that sought to repudiate what was privileged within the epistemology of both. As Gary Gutting notes, post-structuralism attempted to run counter to, if not wholly undermine a set of methodologies associated with structuralism, for example Foucault’s archaeology and Jacques Derrida’s grammatology, together with the analytical philosophical tradition of the West as a whole. What this scepticism was directed towards entailed the fundamental claim ‘that there is an objective body of ultimate truth that can be known by such methods.’19 More broadly, within its methodological critique, what poststructuralism presented was the ‘sceptical denial of all serious truth claims.’20 Whilst for the purposes of this study it would be neither useful or entirely necessary to either corroborate or, conversely, counter Gutting’s claims, it is perhaps nevertheless sufficient to note that today we remain, at the very least, circumspect when faced with the truth claims made on behalf of painting that have thus far been outlined here. However, whilst the legitimacy of the ideologies that originally worked to motivate the accounts given may have waned, the broader aesthetic choices between representation on the one hand and abstraction on the other remain, for the painter at least, perennial questions. As it is, the corollary of unmooring representation and abstraction from a historically received set of aesthetic ideals presents the conditions of possibility to consider each idiom, and its attendant effects, including centrifugality and centripetality as no longer being necessarily antithetical. For what previously was unidirectional, that is the systematic elimination of obstacles, the progressive shedding of the non-essential, now becomes inscribed as a bilateral form of comingling, if not hybridisation.

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On one level, the conditions of possibility for particular painterly styles to become amalgamated if not synthesised was symptomatic of post-modernism’s collapse of any qualitative distinctions there might once have been between approaches and disciplines and, with respect to Greenberg, between what was deemed ‘avant-garde’ and what had been deemed ‘kitsch.’ Whilst this process initially emerged within the context of the 1960s wherein the work of art became a contested site within an artistic milieu that was both plural and discursive, the proclivity for painting specifically to adopt strategies of pastiche, appropriation and fragmentation became most notable, if not cogently expressed within the context of the 1980s. Today we may interpret and begin to align such strategies in relation to what Hal Foster originally described was the ‘archival impulse.’ For Foster, the respective practices of Gerard Byrne, Pierre Huyghe, Mark Dion and Ren´e Green are all symptomatic of a tendency whereby ‘artists seek to make historical information, often lost or displaced, physically present.’21 Either way, what is at stake on one level appears to be the work of art’s relationship to history. Whilst this is an over-arching question that arguably marks our project from the outset, our initial point of consideration will be to consider how one effect of the archive, namely its propensity to inscribe and to be organised around ‘mutations of connection and disconnection’ is given within the work of those artists who directly conflate the monochrome with a particular instance or category of representational imagery.22 To this end, what we will seek to determine is how the work of Gillian Carnegie, Keith Coventry, Mark Wallinger and Jenny Holzer negotiate with Foucault’s determination of the archive as ‘the accumulated existence of discourses.’23 On one level, Black Square (2008) by Gillian Carnegie involves a twofold process of recovery. In one sense, the work reengages with a historically received form to the extent wherein a particular reenactment of the monochrome, if not of a particular monochrome, evidently appears to become staged. However, and at the same moment, the work also attempts to disinter, to fashion out of the amorphous monochromatic void that which a particular facet of modernist practice had cogently sought to supplant, if not to entirely vanquish, namely imagery that is both representational and connotative. Specifically, Black Square, Carnegie’s ostensibly monochromatic work entails the depiction of what appears to be a number of tree trunks within what one takes to be a forest at night.

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Figure 7. Claude Lorrain mirror in shark skin case, believed at one time to be John Dee’s scrying mirror. Front three quarter view. Case open. Graduated grey background. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London

Beyond the particular set of meanings the painting, at the very least brushes up against and which arguably stem from the forest as a particular kind of cultural trope, with its attempt to frame a particular landscape scene and, moreover, by ‘reduc[ing] the variety of natural colors to shades of a monotone’ one understanding we might bring to Carnegie’s painting is that it becomes analogous with the Claude or black mirror.24 Popular during the eighteenth century and associated with the picturesque within the concept of landscape painting, the viewing device was, in effect, a tinted convex mirror.25 Put simply, the artist would turn their back to the scene that they were intending to make a study of and, 34

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holding the Claude or black mirror at approximately shoulder height, (the name derived from the artist Claude Lorrain who was said to have imbued his paintings with qualities that were in some way comparable with those produced by the convex mirror), work from the reflected scene as it appeared within the darkened mirror.26 Although in one sense the mirror lent the landscape with a certain perspicuity, at the same moment it distorted spatial depths by visually compressing the reflected scene’s foreground in relation to its background.27 Beyond the basic admission that, as in the case of a black mirror, the spatial effects of Carnegie’s painting, namely foreground, middleground and distance become, to a greater or lesser extent collapsed, Black Square works to reveal a basic truth that Malevich’s Black Square conversely worked to conceal, that is the colour black’s indelible connection to representation. As John Harvey notes with regards to black in the context of its prehistory: ‘Several colours were available, but it is a fair calculation that societies that left no other trace – beyond the pictures they made on rocks – gave a prominent place to black. From the start, black was strong for decoration. Also black has been and is, both for word and image, the principal colour for representation.’28 Be that as it may, Black Square is a painting wherein whilst representation is delineated, it is never entirely or meaningfully fulfilled. Equally, the painting never wholly cedes to the level of pictorial abstraction that is implied by the painting’s title. Whilst Black Square by Carnegie remains equivocal, if not singularly provocative for its conflation of two seemingly antithetical registers or idioms, let it not be said that Carnegie is alone in working in such a manner; Keith Coventry has also sought to tendentiously conflate the monochrome with representational imagery. Begun in 2004, Coventry produced a series of what were ostensibly black monochrome paintings. Short-circuiting the more opulent pretensions of Raoul Dufy’s pre-war Riviera landscapes, the resulting images appear to have been impressed within the black, tar-like surfaces of the paintings. To this end, the seemingly intractable qualities of the surface become analogous with the artist’s own intentions of wanting to challenge what was implicitly gentile within the original paintings. In what appears to be a tension with regard to the image being able to secure a legible footing, an equivalent form of tension is given through the sense of struggle the

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artist brought to their manufacture: ‘And I thought there is a certain ease with Dufy and the way he paints everything. It’s quite ‘thin’. It’s got its own private language of signs and shorthand and so I thought I would work in impasto to recreate the image but through this element of actually struggling with the paint. Basically doing the opposite to him.’29 However, just as the images ensnared within the paintings’ glutinous surfaces are unable to escape, Coventry also stymies a broader from of emancipation that such modernist painting ostensibly proffered and that specifically the monochrome was complicit with. As Ben Tufnell notes: In the ‘Black Paintings’ seemingly contradictory positions are brought together. They are a provocation, a detournement of two positions within modernist painting: the post-impressionism of Dufy and the high abstraction of Reinhardt and others. Both positions represent a kind of idealism, and offer us variations of spiritual yearning and escape. However, since the early 1990s all Coventry’s works has suggested that there can be no escape.30

As Tufnell’s statement demonstrates, most commentators have sought to square Coventry’s black paintings with the work of Reinhardt and Malevich. However, arguably a more apposite comparison would be with the black paintings the artist F. N. Souza made in 1966. Perhaps most well known for his highly individualised interpretations of religious themes, in 1965 Francis Newton Souza produced a series of black on black paintings that predate Carnegie and Coventry’s black monochrome paintings by approximately 40 years. Predominantly based on somewhat schematic treatments of the figure, Souza’s paintings were made using only black oil paint. Indeed like Coventry’s paintings, what imagery there is within these paintings struggles to gain purchase within the dense, viscous-like surfaces that seem, at the very least, ambivalent to the ostensibly fugitive elements that are ensconced within their monochromatic surfaces. As one commentator remarked: ‘Black paintings, canvas plastered – no other word comes to mind – with thick black paint, with objects and figures dug into them with the same fierce, controlled energy that characterizes his best work.’31 Produced during a point at which Souza had fallen out of critical favour, (he emigrated to New York in 1967), their provocation stems as 36

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much from their resistance to meaning and intention as it does their visual intractability.32 However, at the very least the artist sought to question the monolinear and unidirectional historiographies of artistic modernism, evident wherein he asked: ‘If modern art is hybrid, what is the School of Paris? . . . Indian artists who borrow from the School of Paris are home from home.’33 Although unlike Coventry’s monochromatic paintings Via Dolorosa (2002) by Mark Wallinger doesn’t entail an attempt to invest a monochromatic surface with a partially discernable image, it nevertheless shares an insouciance which, in this case, is not so much directed towards the history and legacy of the black monochrome per se but is perhaps rather borne out of its relationship to the artwork’s filmic and thematic source. Via Dolorosa, (from the Latin meaning ‘painful way’ or ‘way of grief’), entails the superimposition of a black rectangle over the crucifixion scene from Franco Zeffirelli’s 1977 film Jesus of Nazareth. Rather than completely covering the closing, 18 minute scene, the black rectangle sits slightly within the four edges of the screen, allowing any possibility for viewing this scene to be given only through the visual clues as they move within the work’s margins. Whilst this is arguably still possible, (Wallinger has commented that the fact that the scene can still be recognised perhaps suggests something about how Christianity is often absorbed through a process of ‘cultural osmosis’), the question remains with regard to how the black, monochromatic rectangle itself is read.34 To do this, we will need to work outwards from an acknowledgment of the operation of the black rectangle, namely that it works to partially obscure what the artwork is ostensibly organised around. Thus far what has been educed is the fact that to approach the monochrome today is to necessarily work outwards from a basic admission. To this end, rather than be understood as denoting the concretion of a logical end point, the monochrome instead situates itself iteratively within and seeks to negotiate with a broader, more discursive field of trajectories, contingencies and mutations. In this respect, such an understanding would mean that the operation of the monochrome would be analogous to that of a palimpsest.35 To this broadly conceived understanding of the monochrome-as-palimpsest we could add David Batchelor’s, rooted within a set of operational processes that sees a work such as a monochrome by Robert Rauschenberg:

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a laboured achievement of erasure or covering-over . . . there is a sense of there being something either physically beneath or temporally prior to the finished work. Removal or cover up. Neither is anything like Rodchenko’s reduction of painting; rather, here the monochrome is a corruption of some other work. A palimpsest. Not a tabula rasa . . . They are not beginnings or ends but continuations.36

Continuations that nevertheless, and however provisional, are delimited. To this end it is interesting to note that regardless of how one begins to think of or about Via Dolorosa, it is considered from the perspective of functioning as some form of demarcated zone, not necessarily of contagion, but of bounds that have somehow been marked. It is perhaps in this respect that the artwork bears certain affinities with other recent palimpsestic monochromes, none the least of which is Black Painted Lawn With White Fence, 2006 by Andrew Dadson. Although Dadson’s practice has evolved to encompass, amongst other things the iterative layering of paint onto a chosen support until the work becomes what is, for all intents and purposes a black, coagulated monochrome, the precursor to these paintings were a series of photographs the artist took of his urban interventions. To this end, Black Painted Lawn With White Fence is a photograph of exactly that. However, beyond its affinities with other forms of spatial practice that either purport to have some vested interest in painting, for example, Jessica Stockholder’s early ad hoc interventions within nongallery-spaces, or work to expand the categorical boundaries of painting through its horizontality rather than its verticality, Dadson’s work is perhaps most intriguing if thought of as a situated monochrome.37 In addition, and what cannot be entirely dismissed is the connotative effect of this action whereby Dadson’s intervention lends the area demarcated by the black paint that covers it with the appearance of having been burnt, or, more broadly, as purportedly indexing some indeterminate event that has occurred and which has subsequently marked the lawn’s surface, leaving behind a vestigial layer of black. As it is then, or at least as it appears to be, the work of the monochrome, and equally the contemporary monochromatic work is to be understood with respect to a question of how visual information, knowledge and agency becomes both obscured and reinscribed, as an object, if not as a surface and whose status and condition, following Batchelor’s claim, is 38

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‘temporary [and] is in a constant process of being lost and recovered and lost again.’38 Within the context of Via Dolorosa, loss occurs both at the level of the image’s thematics (which seeks to depict the death of Christ) and at the level of the image (which is partially effaced). Indeed, we could say that Via Dolorosa’s black monochrome, as with Laurence Sterne’s own deployment of it in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentlemen, thematises such loss. With the first two volumes published originally in 1759, (there were nine in total published over a period of seven years), The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman follows the eponymous narrator as he seeks to describe particular episodes and events that befall him. Of the novel’s many digressions that Laurence Sterne includes over its entirety, perhaps the one that is the most singular in its determination occurs on page 73 of the first volume wherein the death of Yorick the Parson is marked by the inclusion of what is ostensibly a black monochrome. Beyond being more explicitly emblematic of death, the black monochrome in Sterne’s novel also, somewhat playfully, seems to function as an admission with regard to the impossibility of language to articulate the inexpressible qualities and aspects of finality.39 To this end, and beyond having an affinity with those figures that have sought to position the monochrome as a trope of ineffability, we might reasonably claim that the black monochrome concerns some understanding or measure of foreclosure. To develop this observation further, and in the case of Via Dolorosa, foreclosure is given through the deprivation of the climatic scene of Zeffirelli’s film. Given that the scene is also organised around the depiction of finality, Wallinger’s strategically positioned black monochrome appears to serve ostensibly the same function as Sterne’s. The aggregative impulse wherein, and to paraphrase Foucault, existent discourses gradually accumulate appears then to run concurrently alongside an additional impulse that, as we have already seen, entails a process of foreclosure. To return to the implications of the former, and with reference to Batchelor’s previous observation, in addition to entailing a form of erasure, what Via Dolorosa equally shares with Batchelor’s model of the monochrome-as-palimpsest is a tendentious ‘corruption of some other work.’40 On one level, the idea of the accumulation of discourses and the potential corruption of the work that such an accumulation might result

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Figure 8. Felix Gmelin, Painting Modernism Black, 1996, After Damien Hirst (1994) and Mark Bridger (1994), Iron, glass, water and ink in wooden frame, 175 × 164 × c DACS 2014 65 cm, Courtesy Vilma Gold, London. 

in are both evident within Painting Modernism Black, a work made by the artist Felix Gmelin in 1996. The provenance of Painting Modernism Black was a floor-based work Damien Hirst made in 1994 entitled Away From the Flock. Consisting of a lamb within a vitrine that had been preserved in formaldehyde, the piece was included within the group show Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away which was held at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 1994. A week after the exhibition had opened, the artist Mark Bridger removed the top of the tank and proceeded to pour a solution of black ink into the tank.41 Painting Modernism Black, Gmelin’s response to Bridger’s action was intended to be, if not exactly a homage, then at least a work which was ‘after Damien Hirst (1994) and Mark Bridger (1994).’42 As the title suggests, although Gmelin’s mobilisation of what 40

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is in effect a three-dimensional monochrome might be construed as the attempted foreclosure of modernism generally and Damien Hirst’s work in particular, a thematic that runs through both Gmelin’s work and Via Dolorosa is its relationship to iconoclasm. Indeed, given the title of Hirst’s work and his often irreverent adaptation of religious iconography and subject matter, this thematic could arguably extend to Hirst as well. Certainly, given Via Dolorosa’s tendentious negation of religious imagery, if not its representational ground, a ground that is indelibly connected to the manifold histories of devotional painting, it is apt to construe the work in relation to a much broader history of iconoclasm.43 However, and notwithstanding this particular set of connotations the work has, Wallinger’s censoring of the image can equally be construed as a redaction of specific information. Whilst the very act of redaction today carries with it a particular set of connotations bound up with censorship and the ostensible editing or withholding of the truth, this wasn’t originally the case. Certainly, and as Katherine Lenard notes, ‘the dictionary’s definitions themselves lack malevolent overtones; the problematic nature of such editing endures just under the surface.’44 Although Lenard sees Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953) as anticipating the redaction strategies that artists subsequently would adopt, ostensibly every monochrome painting entails a deliberate act of redaction directed towards the unblemished surface of the work’s support. In this respect ‘redaction creates a palimpsest in which layers of meaning are removed, sometimes leaving no trace of that absence.’45 One artist who has sought to deal with the form of redaction that ‘lead[s] to a censorship seeking to strike information from the public record’ is Jenny Holzer.46 Working with declassified documents from the US government, a page is photographed, enlarged and then transferred onto a silkscreen frame. Using oil paint, the image is then transferred onto linen support. A form of cancellation, a rendering null and void, these paintings are not attempts to disinter the information itself, as this would be virtually impossible, but rather, and at the very least, to expose the very fact that such forces are at work, forces which seek if not to annul information, then to render it benign. As Eleanor Heartney notes: ‘Sometimes oddly satisfying in formal terms, the Redaction Paintings speak eloquently not just about the prevalence of state censorship and the abuses it vainly tries to

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hide, but also the assaults it commits against language, as well as bodies and minds.’47 Whilst on some documents such ‘uncannily expressive gesturalism’ selectively strikes out information that is deemed to be too sensitive for public dissemination and consumption, in other instances an entire page is wiped out wholesale.48 It is instances of the latter, with their large swathes of black that, at the very least, evoke Malevich’s original black monochrome. Indeed, the two central panels of Holzer’s polyptych COLIN POWELL YELLOW WHITE, (2005) carry with them a similar white border. However, such formal affinities ultimately are at the service of political ends. In this respect, and as Robert Storr notes, ‘Holzer is, to the extent her research will allow, locating the exact sources and sites of institutional misdeeds and naming the names of those who have taken it upon themselves to abrogate or rewrite the law.’49 Despite the identity of its unfettered form, its ostensible simplicity and singular, putatively incontrovertible presence as a basic shape, be it a square or a rectangle that has been covered with a single colour and whose texture is broadly uniform and uninflected in its determination, to paraphrase Batchelor, like palimpsests, and as the study thus far has deduced, the monochrome is ‘always already marked by the world, by contingency.’50

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3 Complicating Presence, Reenacting History Although Rauschenberg had first studied at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina during the academic year 1948–1949, it would be in 1951, during the first of two summer sessions he would attend and following a brief hiatus in New York that he would produce what were, in effect, a series of black monochrome paintings.1 Initially Rauschenberg would have been encouraged, inter alia, to experiment with the formal means, and in particular the perceptual effects, of colour. As Josef Albers, the former Bauhaus teacher who taught at the college proclaimed in Time magazine in 1949: ‘You see I want my inventions to act, to lose their identity. What I expect from my colors and forms is that they do something they don’t want to do themselves. For instance, I want to push a green so it looks red.2 However, whilst, as Hopps notes it ‘is usually recounted that the attraction of Black Mountain for Rauschenberg was the reputed rigorous teaching and mastery of color of its headmaster,’ the tutelage of which Rauschenberg had initially been exposed to became increasingly restrictive.3 To this end, and with the support of a number of like-minded individuals, Rauschenberg sought to develop a more individuated approach to artistic practice.4 As Mary Lynn Kotz observes, Jack Tworkov and Franz Kline, both of whom were working predominantly with a very reduced palette and who Rauschenberg had studied with at Black Mountain College in 1951 had encouraged the artist to work entirely with black.5 43

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This, coupled with the fact that during the following year Rauschenberg also had John Cage as his ally, the composer and artist who also taught at the Black Mountain College meant that Rauschenberg was able to test out and indeed reimagine the possibilities contained within the monochrome. Arguably, Rauschenberg’s decision to entirely eschew what were the prevailing authorial modes allowed the artist to fix his enquiry more readily on this approach to (non)artistic production and, by extension, open the work up to an alternative set of readings. To this end, and as he claimed in 1977, the status of his materials and how he chose to relate to them became tantamount to ‘a raw zen. It was just an attitude about materials that was strong enough not to submit to Albers’ dictum of “It’s the man who does the painting.”6 Moreover, the work’s proclivity to simultaneously occupy a number of seemingly paradoxical positions or states, appearing to be both entirely replete and wholly absent, autonomous and yet necessarily contingent, static yet at the same time in a state of perpetual flux, further worked against the work merely being read as rehearsing the formalism of both Greenberg and, for that matter Minimalism. Indeed, one could say that the fundamental difference between what ostensibly appeared to be a mutually inclusive set of ambitions rested on the fact that for Rauschenberg and, equally for those practices that eventually coalesced under the heading of Minimalism, Marcel Duchamp became a significant point of reference. This was partly in defiance at the likes of Greenberg who had sought to tendentiously omit him from his own formalist account of modernism.7 Specifically, by foregrounding the ostensible ‘thisness’ of painting, Rauschenberg’s black paintings appeared, at the very least, to acknowledge the Duchampian legacy of the readymade. The black series as a whole were comprised of five related bodies of work, entailing gradual but nevertheless perceptible shifts in register that began with the Night Blooming series of 1951.8 A characteristic of the series as a whole and one that was in marked contrast to their white counterparts was an engagement with surface texture and the visual effects such an engagement might elicit. To this end, the paintings that were part of the first series entailed Rauschenberg pressing the still wet canvases onto and into the gravel on the road. Having achieved a somewhat coarse surface texture from this action, he would then work over these textures with an additional layer of paint.9 Whilst punctuated in one sense by the white paintings, of which a total of six were produced at

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Figure 9. Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled [glossy black painting], 1951, enamel and newspaper on canvas; 71 15/16 in. × 53 in. (182.72 cm × 134.62 cm); San Francisco c Robert Museum of Modern Art, Purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis;  c Estate of Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.  Robert Rauschenberg. DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2014

Black Mountain in 1951, and following the production of a matt black triptych, Rauschenberg would then proceed to make a series of what were black monochrome paintings that utilised a textured ground comprised of newspaper over which glossy paint was applied. Having subsequently produced, as Hopps notes a ‘fourth related set of black paintings [which involved] juxtapositions, both visual and physical,’ Rauschenberg produced what would be the final series of related works, adaptations of rather than strict adherents to the monochrome which, 45

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whilst still exploiting the textural and indeed textual possibilities offered by working on a newspaper ground, were comprised of tonal variations of both brown and black.10 Unlike the White Paintings, which Rauschenberg first exhibited at Black Mountain in 1952 in the dining hall as part of Cage’s Theater Piece No. 1 and which were discernable for their continuous, uninflected surfaces, the Black Paintings, with perhaps one notable exception, were foregrounded by the materiality of their respective surfaces.11 Indeed, the paintings’ facture could arguably be compared to the worked-up surfaces of certain Abstract Expressionist canvases that were being concurrently produced. However, and despite the fact that unlike the white monochromes the black pigment of the paintings, if not the paintings themselves arguably ‘restored the representational function,’ the artist retrospectively sought to distance the paintings from the possibility of eliciting a comparable reading.12 In 1966, Rauschenberg would observe that ‘critics shared with the public a certain reaction . . . they couldn’t see black as a pigment. They moved immediately into association with “burned-out,” “tearing,” “nihilism” and “destruction.” That began to bother me.’13 The conditions of possibility for the black monochromes to function as carriers of semantic content, and Rauschenberg’s ambivalence towards this is reiterated in another passage from the same interview wherein he makes the following observation: There was a whole language (used in discussions of the abstract expressionisms) that I could never make function for myself: it revolved around words like, “tortured,” “struggle,” “pain.” I don’t know whether it was my Albers training or my personal “hang-up” but I could never see those qualities in paint – I could see them in life and in art that illustrates life. But I could not see such conflict in the materials and I knew that it had to be in the attitude of the painter, his interpretation of an attitude that existed separately.14

So how are Rauschenberg’s black monochrome paintings to be read? Perhaps in the first instance they should be seen within a milieu wherein the artwork and specifically painting had increasingly become a contested site, rather than, and despite Greenberg’s efforts to the contrary, a categorical norm. Fundamentally, such debates emerged out of what 46

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A more obscured but nonetheless profound aesthetic issue further complicated the understanding of Rauschenberg’s early work. This can be identified as the pronounced antipathy that existed between abstract and imagist impulses within American art during this period. By imagist, I refer to the mode of art-making where specific representations and iconographically recognizable images are employed as disparate elements within the art.15

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were arguably two separate accounts of painting. The first, historical in scope and import, continued to attach meaning onto painting primarily through an understanding that it remained an inherently representational medium. Conversely, the second repudiated this long-standing tradition and sought instead to privilege more recent, modernist developments that were organised around painting’s determination within both an abstract set of means and indeed, with regards to its theorisation, a consonant set of ends. As Hopps notes:

In spite of or, indeed perhaps because of their visual economy, they were complicated presences. According to Rauschenberg, the black paintings entailed a ‘complexity without their revealing anything. The fact that there was lots to see but not much showing.’16 In one sense, such a claim can be understood if we consider that many of these paintings were a variant form of collage, an approach that Jasper Johns had also adopted in a work such as Flag (1954–55). To this end, a particular form of hybridisation occurred between, for example aspects that pertained to painting alongside those aspects that pertained to collage. In addition, Rauschenberg tendentiously sought to conflate a more purified, atemporal and universalised account of abstract painting with materials, such as newspapers, that were arguably more sullied, temporal and contingent. Beyond these particular tensions, due to the fact that several of the black monochromes had been rendered using a glossy paint, unlike their matt counterparts these works became contingent upon both the effects of light and of the audience’s respective position in proximity to them. In addition to functioning as complicated presences, they equally worked to complicate presence. In one sense, this could be understood if we relate the term ‘presence’ to the context of American formalist art criticism, a context wherein the valorisation of presence was cogently inscribed. As Johanna Drucker notes, the ‘fictive fetishizing of a full 47

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presence became the high modernist’s fundamental grounds for definition of the operation and identity of works of visual art.’17 To a certain extent, ‘presence’ was one of several related terms that pertained to the lexicon of formalist criticism. For example, within the writings of Clement Greenberg, ‘purity’ ostensibly shares the same ontological footing. Writing in 1958, Greenberg would claim that the ‘desire for purity works, as I have indicated, to put an even higher premium on sheer visibility and an even lower one on the tactile and its associations, which include that of weight as well as impermeability.’18 In one sense, the presence that is complicated by Rauschenberg’s black monochromes are a set of ‘metaphysical implications of the formalist method that [had] been clandestinely operative all along.’19 The corollary that then follows from this interpretation is that the black monochromes replaced a metaphysical presence for one that was more plain-spoken and arguably more straightforwardly physical.20 However, this would assume that Greenberg’s prescriptions with regard to ‘presence,’ ‘purity’ et al were fully in train, something which, by 1951, they arguably weren’t. Instead, it is perhaps more likely that for a formalist art critic like Greenberg, they would have appeared too willing to relinquish an aesthetic for the sake of a radical or, what Greenberg pejoratively claimed, was a ‘far out’ gesture. Referring to his first encounter with Rauschenberg’s all-white and all-black paintings at the Stable Gallery in 1953, Greenberg commented that ‘I was surprised by how easy they were to “get,” how familiarlooking and even slick.’21 Elsewhere in the same text he notes that: ‘All of which might have puzzled me more had I not already had the experience of Rauschenberg’s blank canvases, and of Yves Klein’s all-blue ones; and had I not seen another notable token of far-outness, Reinhardt’s shadowy monochrome, part like a veil to reveal a delicate and very timid sensibility.’22 Nevertheless, the black paintings’ ‘monochromatic flatness’ tendentiously interrupted the determination of abstract painting that Greenberg and his followers espoused.23 Rather than being construed as a recapitulation of Greenberg’s theories, Rauschenberg’s black monochrome paintings were a fortiori statements that were in one sense the logical end point of the essentialism that a critic like Greenberg espoused. Indeed, although Rauschenberg’s black monochromes, together with Frank Stella’s, forced abstraction’s hand to the extent wherein the only valorisation Greenberg could confer on them

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Figure 10. Radical Painting installation shot

would be pejorative in scope and import, they nevertheless ushered in a subsequent range of practices, all of which sought to explore a particular type of pictorial radicalism that negotiated rather than repudiated outright the formalist critic’s decrees. Whilst it’s not necessary for the purposes of this study to rehearse that particular range of artistic practices here, it is perhaps worth noting that more recently a number of artists have chosen the ‘re-enactment of historic high Modernist principals’ as a somewhat speculative premise to either frame or foreground their respective practices.24 One precursor to such subsequent forms of re-enactment was the group exhibition Radical Painting that was staged in 1984 at the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The title of the exhibition denoted both a loose grouping of artists that included Raimund Girke, Marcia Hafif, Anders Knutsson, Joseph Marioni and G¨unter Umberg and an attitude that was brought to bear to a particularly distilled form of abstraction. Indeed, and with regard to the latter, 49

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whilst ‘radical’ (whose etymology is from the Latin radix meaning ‘root’) arguably harkened back to the technical radicalism that marked the project of modernism, according to Lilly Wei, writing in catalogue that accompanied the exhibition, the ‘adjective ‘radical’ in the title of this assemblage refers to the radices of painting: paint and color applied to a surface.’25 Although by the exhibition’s own admission, ‘monochromatic’ as a historically contingent term and as a governing idea had been repudiated, what was perhaps notably striking about the paintings that were included within the exhibition were their proclivity to rehearse a set of ostensibly formalist precepts that appeared to be Greenbergian in both scope and import.26 Certainly, when Wei writes elsewhere in the essay that the ‘theme which all the paintings present is the elaboration of structure based on the optic and haptic properties of paint and color,’ one is inevitably reminded of Greenberg’s own emphasis upon a set of optical effects that were unique to painting.27 That an artist like Umberg became attached to such a reading was perhaps inevitable, given the fact that, as Brigitte Baumstark remarks, his work centers upon ‘the fundamental means of painting, the planar structure of the two-dimensional ground as well as the material properties of the paint.’28 Furthermore, Umberg’s dense, monochromatic panels, unencumbered by the requirement of having to organise the visible in relation to the historically received edicts of representation, arguably rehearses the conditions of possibility for his oeuvre to be read as an instantiation of painting qua itself.29 It is perhaps for these reasons, in addition to Wei’s prefatory claim, that in the first instance Umberg’s practice appears on one level to function as a continuation of artistic formalism by other means, means which harkens back, at the very least, to the repudiation of the image and for that matter a set of pictorial conventions that, following Alberti, and as we have already noted, analogised painting as some form of window. However, if Umberg’s intention is the furtherance of a set of understandings that became inscribed within the practices and critical discourses of late or so-called high modernism, then on one level, according to James Elkins at least, the question of affiliation becomes imperative. Umberg is a perfect example of the dilemma of modernist painting at the end of the century. On the one hand, if the view refuses to countenance the gestural traces in his work, Umberg’s painting can be interpreted as

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Although such questions, according to Elkins at least, marks the project of Umberg, with regard to the paintings Frank Stella produced between 1959 to 1960, the artist appeared to be confronted with arguably the same dilemma. Begun during the winter of 1958, the black paintings were comprised of a series of parallel bands that Stella had painted using commercial black enamel paint. The width of each band was coincident with the width of the housepainter’s brush that the artist used. The interstitial line or ‘pinstripe’ that ran between each pair of parallel bands was a result of the unprimed canvas showing through. With its radically pared down means coupled with the fact that Stella used a relatively deep stretcher frame, a painting such as The Marriage of Reason and Squalor II (1959) was more akin to a monolithic slab of black granite than what might be more straightforwardly characterised as a painting. If Megan R. Luke is correct in her assertion that ‘the overture Stella’s abstraction made to brute materiality led Greenberg to withhold his endorsement of the young painter,’ then the question perhaps is to what extent did the black, ostensibly monochrome paintings became aligned instead with Minimalism?31 If the critical position assumed by Greenberg involved an understanding of the object in terms of its inexorable gravitation towards its own essence, Minimalism’s countermove was one wherein consensually their objects, broadly speaking, became determined by a certain phenomenological facticity, essential or otherwise. Certainly, the following quotation by Stella would appear to imply that he was closer in attitude to the latter camp: ‘My painting is based on the fact that what can be seen there is there. It really is an object. Any painting is an object and anyone who gets involved enough in this finally has to face up to the objectness of whatever it is that he’s doing. He is making a thing.’32 Whilst it has already been remarked that the dilemma facing Stella was one wherein the work carried with it and was marked by a susceptibility to

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a practice faithful to Minimalism. On the other hand, if the destiny and near invisibility of the gestural traces keep the work at an incremental distance from the perfect minimalist surface, then the practice carries on high modernist concerns . . . Either way, the only available context for interpretation is modernist, and the only terms are those elaborated by Greenberg and Fried.30

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contrasting, if not antithetical readings, what Stella’s claim perhaps betrays is a more deep-seated dilemma or tension between, on the one hand meaning and, on the other hand, being. Indeed, it could be said that what confronted Stella was merely that which has historically worked to characterise the monochrome from the outset, namely its twofold dependency upon and, conversely resistance to language.33 Moreover, the task of the monochrome became one of an attempt to broach what Octavio Paz had noted was a void that exists ‘between names and reality.’34 On one level, the slippage, if not the void between, on the one hand ‘names’ and on the other hand ‘reality,’ between meaning and being was clearly discernable within the black paintings and the attendant set of discourses they engendered. That such a tension marks the black monochromes of Umberg is perhaps more clearly given through their proclivity to organise themselves around that which is known as opposed to that which is felt. If we draw our attention towards the latter, it could be argued that Umberg’s monochromes, within a very basic set of terms, are somehow bound up with and contingent upon the body of the viewer. For Umberg, such an alignment of the monochrome with the body, or more specifically bodily sensation was what the paintings of Malevich first worked to reveal. Specifically, by renouncing nature, the corporeal, whether it was given within a set of terms that were directly squared in relation to the artist or the audience, became inscribed: ‘For Malevich painting involved arousal and pure sensation in an act of creation which was bound up in bodily sensation and no longer in nature.’35 It could be argued that the experiential basis of these works are such that they remain predisposed towards allowing, through a set of terms that are inherently reflexive, the viewer to be cognisant of their own interiority.36 However, and as the following description by Brigitte Baumstarrk denotes, the so-called ‘felt’ dimension of Umberg’s monochromes centres upon and is given through the work’s relationship to touch: From up close, one first sees the different finely modelled structures of the surface and surmises the materiality of the pigment. This draws the eye into the depth of the velvety surface. In so doing, one can get so close to the painting that the sense of orientation is lost. It is difficult to break away and the desire to touch sets in, though one must resist the urge.37

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As this statement suggests, a significant aspect of the monochrome paintings of Umberg is how, through their tactile properties, the works’ particularise their address to the viewer. Indeed, whilst the paintings do not necessarily entail the animated surfaces of certain Abstract Expressionist paintings, they nevertheless induce the tactile sense that is given through the agency of the artwork’s respective audience. Analogous to this, and as the artist has noted, is a particular tension between attraction and renunciation that is comparable to a ‘desire to touch the person opposite.’38 As it is then, such a ‘multitude of different interrelationships between picture and observer’ arguably stems from an understanding and indeed mobilisation of the tactile, or what we might equally deem to be the haptic, within Umberg’s practice.39 Closely affiliated with the tactile, the haptic can be subdivided into the understanding of touch proper and the invocation of touch. Laura L. Marks articulates the distinction between the two sensate processes as follows: ‘Haptic perception is usually defined as the combination of the tactile, kinaesthetic, and proprioceptive functions, the way we experience touch both on the surface of and inside our bodies . . . In haptic visuality, the eyes themselves function like organs of touch.’40 It is perhaps of significance that the ‘haptic’ emerges not only as a composite aspect of certain conceptions of painting, but has also contributed towards an epistemology within the disciplines of architecture, video art and performance. Although all three activities carry a separate set of concerns that are necessarily housed within separate means, the intersection of all three can be located at the point wherein a mutual desire for a proximate form of physical orientation becomes inscribed. Haptic visuality then involves attending to an object in terms of its ‘touch,’ that is, in terms of how it corresponds to the hand, the finger or fingers, how the object can be, (and has been) brushed, traced, cupped, and held. Within this system of correspondence there is always a direct physical correlation that is inscribed between the object and the proximate, somatic self. One critical precedent that the haptic appears to install directly within the relationship inscribed between object and self is dependent upon a specific conception of temporality. Unlike the ocularcentric modernist strategies that required the object to be ‘apprehended’ in an instant, the haptic object appears to warrant a durational mode of viewing. To this

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end, the haptic is defined in diametrical opposition to sight primarily in order to challenge what was implicit within, in one sense, the hegemony of modernism. As Jennifer Fisher notes: ‘Where the visual sense permits a transcendent, distant and arguably disconnected point-of-view, the haptic sense functions by contiguity, contact and resonance.’41 Moreover, sight, the most privileged sense according to modernism, in the context of the perceptive capacities of the body is replaced by the haptic sense that ‘renders the surfaces of the body porous, being perceived at once inside, on the skin’s surface, and in external space. It enables the perception of weight, pressure, balance, temperature, vibration and presence.’42 What the above statement demonstrates is a degree of opacity in terms of conclusively being able to locate a site where the haptic sense, somatically, becomes operational as external stimuli. This is by no means a recent issue. Although Aristotle considered that the ‘primary form of sense is touch, which belongs to all animals,’ he was rather less vocal in terms of attributing a clearly determined set of parameters within which to house both touch’s reception and operation:43 ‘To the question whether the organ of touch lies inward or not (i.e. whether we need look any further than the flesh), no indication in favour of the second answer can be drawn from the fact that if the object comes into contact with the flesh it is or not perceived.’44 Whilst Aristotle’s own reflections upon touch are marked by a certain aporia, it is equally important to recognise that perceptual touch appears to carry with it the same level of indeterminacy. Jennifer Fisher, for her part responds to this firstly by re-affirming that, ‘haptic perception can elucidate the energies and volitions involved in sensing space: temperature, presences, pressures and resonances. In this sense it is the affective touch, a plane of feeling distinct from actual physical contact.’45 Using this observation as a critical point of departure, Fisher then proceeds to articulate the importance of both differentiating between vision and touch and observing that what is evidenced is the spatial embodiment of somatic orientation: ‘While the visual gives trajectories – sight-lines – between the viewer and the surfaces of art, the haptic defines the affective charge – the felt dimensionality – of a spatial context.’46 Evidently, if Aristotle’s aporia centred upon an inability to locate the region of touch, the haptic, at the very least, appears to be contingent upon the specificity of the relation between the particularity of an object’s

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exteriority as it becomes situated within a given milieu, (including objects in a milieu) and the somatic interiority of the self. Although those artists who loosely fell within the purview of ‘Radical Painting’ produced work, and often monochromatic works that ostensibly were premised upon a particular reading and, it could be argued, extension of modernism, and perhaps more specifically artistic formalism, for the purposes of our study what is perhaps more pertinent are those more recent examples, as Michael Bracewell has already pointed out, of artworks that can can be understood as re-enacting particular modernist principles. Of course, the argument could be made that every contemporary work of art under consideration within this study is, to a lesser or greater extent, ‘re-enacting’ if not a high Modernist principle then, at the very least, one of its salient forms. Although there would be a measure of truth with such an assertion, perhaps a distinction has to be drawn between those works wherein the visual effects, if not the conceptual underpinnings of monochromacity are either implicit or tangential to the work, although hopefully as this study will evince nonetheless interesting for the particularities of this relationship, and those works that ostensibly appear to be more readily foregrounded by such an operation. It is towards the latter of the two examples that we shall now turn our attention to. Made from the most rudimentary of materials, namely an admixture of rainwater and black pigment which is brushed onto jute by way of a broom, the organising principle of Keith Coventry’s Deontological Pictures, as their titles suggest, stems from an ethical theory which places emphasis on rules or duties over and above what consequences might arise from such rules or duties. According to the artist, deontology is: where duty is controlled by rules [and] is the most important thing, rendering the outcome or the consequences of performing that duty irrelevant. Take for instance, the example of a nuclear device that is about to go off and kill millions of people and there is a computer expert who can prevent this from happening. This expert has his own moral code that he lives by, namely that he would never hack into a computer system. So he is therefore willing to let all those people die rather than break one of his own moral rules . . . So, similarly, for me, I didn’t care about the outcome of the paintings, what was important was to observe the rules that I set myself for making them.47

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In one respect, by engaging with a principle that privileges intent rather than its subsequent effects rehearses the conceptual artist Sol LeWitt’s assertion wherein with ‘conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work.’ As LeWitt claimed in 1967, ‘when an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair.’48 However, although the Deontological Pictures rehearse conceptual art’s adherence to ideas whilst at the same moment functioning as a coda to Rauschenberg’s so-called ‘Dirt Paintings,’ it is to the more elevated moments and methodologies of artistic modernism that the Deontological Paintings arguably look toward. Beyond their stylistic affinities with monochrome painting, and perhaps more specifically with Malevich’s original determination of the form in 1915, their methodology, with regards to how the series has evolved, is in one sense modernist in scope and import. As Michael Bracewell notes, each of the Deontological Pictures is labelled and titled sequentially, that is A, A+I, A+II and so on. In terms of accounting for this systematisation of artistic practice, Coventry has made the following observation: Yes, well that relates back to the idea of modernism as well. Whereas, you have an idea – say the idea is A – the way to develop the work would not be to go straight to B. Instead you carry out idea A and then develop it so it becomes A+I and then A+II and so on. It is also one way to understand modernism, where a practice develops in a way that the previous piece you’ve made informs the next one that you are going to make. It is a selfreferential system built from past events. Deontology is also about the past, the rules are derived from the past rather than by looking forward to what might happen in the future.49

Whilst an ostensible set of meanings appear to stem from the title of the series, there would appear the possibility for a creative misreading of their collective titles that is, at the very least, analogous to their somewhat indeterminate character. Such a misreading would stem from a literal interpretation of ‘Deontological’ to the extent wherein the prefix ‘de’ is seen to reverse or even remove the meanings conferred onto the root word ‘ontological.’ Consequently, ontology’s proclivity to confer governable laws and categories onto the fundamental aspects of the world, onto the world’s ‘being’ would be short-circuited. Indeed, 56

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what Coventry’s Deontological Pictures denote is the fact that the re-enactment it necessarily entails inscribes an ambivalent relationship to the forms it has chosen to work with and the conceptual frameworks it has chosen to work within. Moreover, whilst the relationship Coventry’s paintings have with history is marked by a certain ambivalence, such ambivalence, if more cogently given, can occupy a position that becomes closer to that of a critique. Certainly this strategy is evident within the work of Sherrie Levine. Emerging out of a context of practices that collectively sought to direct a form of critique towards those ideological forces that worked to valorise the work of art as such, Sherrie Levine’s practice has tendentiously sought to revisit particular historical forms as a means of destucturing their legitimisation within a broader cultural milieu. This is perhaps why many artists adopted the artistic strategy of appropriation, a strategy that in one respect helped to define a generation of artists and was instrumental to their development in the same way that the operation of chance was to both the Dadaists and the Surrealists. By appropriating historical forms and other aspects, vestigial or otherwise, that had been drawn from the realm of both popular culture and modernist production, the conditions of possibility for the circuitry of the appropriated image to be exposed, if not recalibrated became inscribed. Along with the work of an artist like Richard Prince who appropriated imagery derived from a Marlboro advertising campaign, the appropriationist impulse foregrounded Levine’s practice and to a certain extent worked to frame the ostensible meanings that emerged out of such a tendentious gesture. In 1980, having appropriated a total of eight images by the photographer Andreas Feininger which she used as the basis for a series of collages, Levine produced a series of what were photographs of photographs that had originally been taken by Edward Weston.50 During the following year, Levine had her first one-person show at the Metro Gallery in New York wherein she exhibited 22 photographs that had been taken from Walker Evans’s own photographs that originally had sought to document the impact of The Great Depression on the communities living and working in the south of the country. On one level, these sought to use photography, or, more precisely the vagrant or fugitive iterations of photography as a means of exposing the ideological underpinnings of representation. During the same decade

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the artist also turned her attention towards painting. Given the fact that her appropriated photographs took as their subject matter images that had been produced by artists who were respectively all somehow progenitors of modernist photography, the logical next step, in one sense, was to apply a comparable set of appropriationist strategies to paintings whose provenance was from the same historical period. In real terms, this meant that by producing ‘compositions via broad stripes . . . narrow stripes, chevrons, checks . . . and monochrome, Levine took up what might be seen as templates (or even composites) of tropes dear to certain “ideas” of modernist painting.’51 Although Levine had in her sights particular facets that loosely fell within the purview of abstraction, by the very fact that Levine’s own paintings had a tautological relationship to their respective sources, although stylistically similar in appearance, they become disarticulated from abstraction tout court. That is, in the very act of this disarticulation, because a particular set of understandings and meanings become short circuited, if not cancelled out, Levine’s ‘paintings’ worked to reinstate the place of illusion, but only as phantasm, as a conceit, denuded of those meanings that historically had been conferred upon them. As Hal Foster would note in an article written for Art in America in the June of 1986: As suggested by the involvement of [Jack] Goldstein and Levine, this new abstraction develops mostly out of appropriation art . . . It is not at all derived, genealogically, from critical abstract painting – that of Stella, [Robert] Ryman, [Brice] Marden . . . [Levine’s paintings] stimulate modes of abstraction, as if to demonstrate that they are no longer critically reflexive or historically necessary forms . . . – that they are simply styles among others.52

As Burton has previously noted, within the context of this particular facet of her practice, Levine produced a series of what ostensibly are monochrome paintings. Having scanned a particular image of a painting, the digitised information regarding the distribution of colour was then ‘melted down’ to provide a mean, monochromatic colour. With regard to these paintings, Levine stated in an interview with Jeanne Siegel in 1991 that: ‘I wanted to distill these . . . paintings. I love monochrome paintings. I think monochrome paintings are the apex of modernist painting. For years I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a 58

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monochrome painting that made sense in the context of my work and I was very pleased when I came upon this solution.’53 In an observation that was made by the artist with regard to the stripe paintings but that is equally, if not arguably more applicable to her monochrome paintings, Levine revealed, in one sense, the paradoxical nature of these works: ‘That’s what I think is so amusing about the stripe paintings, that ostensibly they are non-referential, but on the other hand they have all these references. The idea was to make an abstract painting, a non-objective painting, that in fact had lots of references.’54 Although Levine’s practice evidently rests on a particular deliberation with regard to the traits of a ‘certain kind of art (“modernism”) . . . objects, ideas, and histories in the world [that] exert themselves on a number of levels and via so many codes,’ according to Burton, historically Levine had been positioned within a broader set of contexts that sought to question painting’s longevity.’55 To this end, Yves-Alain Bois, writing in the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition Endgame: Reference and Simulation in Recent Painting and Sculpture, prefaces his essay by seeking recourse to an assertion by Levine wherein she claims that her paintings ‘are about death in a way: the uneasy death of modernism.’56 Although Endgame sought to consider the possible exhaustion of the medium, such a sentiment arguably rehearsed a well-worn thesis that had marked the project of painting, and more specifically monochrome painting from its historical inception. Indeed, the implicit horizon of the monochrome, in one sense has always involved the eventual decline, if not termination of painting as it had been historically understood. One could argue that the monochrome mobilised the very conditions of possibility for the medium’s exhaustion within the broader discourses of twentiethcentury modernism. Indeed, one of the contributing factors to the monochrome becoming enframed, if not ensnared within this particular narrative was its reductivism which, at certain historical moments, represented the ne plus ultra or logical end point of what had been abstraction’s pursuit and purported delimitation of painting’s pictorial essence. Perhaps one of the first of such moments was with the exhibition 5 × 5 = 25, staged in Moscow in the autumn of 1921. Affiliated with Moscow’s Institute for Artistic Culture (INKhUK), the exhibition consisted of artworks by Aleksandra Ekster. Aleksandr Vesnin, Varvara

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Stepanova, Liubov Popova and Alexander Rodchenko. Amongst the abstract works that were shown, Rodchenko included three monochromatic canvases. Retrospectively, the artist claimed that such a gesture was determinable as an unequivocal act of negation: ‘I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue and yellow. I affirmed: it’s all over.’57 As a means of shoring up this particular interpretation, the art critic and historian Nikolai Tarabukin would interpret Rodchenko’s gesture as being representative of a situation which entailed the ‘gradual degeneration of painting as the typical art form’58 For Tarabukin, such degeneration was evident, indeed, inexpugnable within the monochrome paintings that Rodchenko had painted and had subsequently chosen to display. To this end: This canvas [red monochrome] is extremely significant for the evolution of artistic forms which art has undergone in the last ten years. It is not merely a stage which can be followed by new ones but it represents the last and final step of a long journey, the last word, after which painting must become silent, the last ‘picture’ made by an artist.59

In one sense, Ad Reinhardt’s impulse to create what was, in effect, the ‘last painting’ sits firmly within this narrative, the broader sweep of which concerned the medium’s alleged demise, if not its obsolescence.60 Certainly within the self-penned admission, written in 1963 that his black monochromes were the last possible response to the various ‘vertical stripes, blobs [and] abstract-art traditions’ corroborates and further extends such a sentiment.61 Reinhardt occupied a unique position within the context of the postwar American avant-garde. Although he had initially been associated with the Abstract Expressionists, (he appears with several other artists who were directly associated with this movement in ‘The Irascibles,’ the famous photograph taken by Nina Leen for Life magazine), by the time he was producing his black monochrome paintings he appeared keen to distance himself and his work from them.62 In an interview with Bruce Glaser in 1966, when asked whether his practice entailed a variant form of action painting, Reinhardt, although willing to accept that there was a form of agency at work, nevertheless appeared reluctant to conflate his own approach to making abstract painting as being somehow comparable 60

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to an artist such as Jackson Pollock: ‘I suppose there is always an act or an action of some kind. But the attempt is to minimize it. There are no gymnastics or dancings over paintings or spilling or flinging paint around.’63 If Reinhardt was, at the very least ambivalent with his work being somehow associated with other concurrent approaches to abstraction, then the artist was equally resistant to the more hybridised approach to the production of the work of art, an approach that sought to conflate, if not entirely collapse the two realms of art and life: ‘The number of poets and musicians and writers mixed up with art is disreputable. Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg. I’m against the mixture of all the arts, against the mixture of art and everyday life.’64 The body of work that gave the fullest distillation of this approach, and of his ideas generally were the black series of monochrome paintings that, by 1960, the artist was entirely focusing upon. Indeed, and as he professed in ‘Autointerview,’ published in Art News in March 1965, since 1960 he had exclusively made ‘black paintings of one format, square and of one size, five feet by five feet using oil in canvas or, more specifically, ‘Bocour on Belgian linen.’65 In addition to the choice of materials being important, Reinhardt prepared his paint in a particular way to achieve a particular effect. Small quantities of red, green or blue oil paint would be added to a larger quantity of Mars Black. In the same jar a sizeable amount of turpentine would be added. The combination of the colours along with the turpentine would then be blended by way of the artist vigorously shaking the jar. This would then be left for several weeks, during which time the pigment would settle at the bottom of the jar. By siphoning off the lighter, solvent based admixture of turpentine and binder, what remained was the viscous-like pigment that he would then proceed to paint with. What this process ensured was that the actual surfaces of the black monochrome paintings were entirely matt and, moreover, appeared to absorb light whilst at the same time creates an indeterminate perceptual depth. As the artist claimed in 1967: There’s something about darkness or blackness that I don’t want to pin down. But it’s aesthetic. And it has not to do with outer space or the color of skin or the color of matter. As a matter of fact, the glossier, texturizer, gummy black is a sort of an objectionable quality in painting. It’s one reason why I moved to a sort of dark gray. At any rate it’s a matte black.66

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In relation to the possibility for the work to be interpreted, Reinhardt understandably appeared somewhat reluctant to confer onto the black paintings a prescribed set of meanings or associations. As the artist claimed: ‘But it says what it says and one doesn’t have to say anything about it. And I never say anything about my paintings. I never explain them or interpret them.’67 Indeed, it could be argued that he tendentiously went to some length to establish what, for the artist at least, his paintings were not. With regard to the former, Reinhardt began one series of notes by way of using the prefix ‘non,’ for example ‘Non-expressionist,’ before moving through those qualities that were figured by a lack or an absence, this time by way of using the suffix ‘less,’ – ‘meaningless, formless, colorless, lineless, spaceless, lightless’ through to the final section wherein he listed a series of negations including ‘no action-arena-canvas and careerism.’68 With regard to the latter, namely painting, Reinhardt’s contribution to the catalogue that accompanied the Contemporary American Painting exhibition at the University of Illinois in 1952 set out, in unequivocal terms, what painting was not. To this end his list included ‘no window-hole-in-the-wall, no illusions, no representations, no associations, no distortions’ and ended by way of claiming ‘no confusing painting with everything that is not painting.’69 A comparable set of convictions, convictions that ostensibly worked to negate both a particular understanding of art and more specifically a particular approach to painting can be discerned within Reinhardt’s ‘Twelve Rules for a New Academy,’ first published in Art News in May 1957. Again, Reinhardt describes artistic practice in terms of what it is not, both with regard the Six General Canons or the Six Notes and the Twelve Technical Rules which were a series of proscriptions ranging from ‘No texture’ through to ‘No time.’70 As a state or condition to be achieved, if not aspired to, in this sense it was an act of faith and affirmation, a tendentious shedding of dogma, convention and orthodoxy, of what was now both superfluous and unnecessary so that nothing could be inscribed as ‘the central tune.’71 However, unlike artistic modernism that had also sought to conceive the practice of art as the necessary shedding of unnecessary embellishment and extraneous detail, an impulse that remained geared towards rendering visible an immutable core that was, in Greenberg’s case, unique to a

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particular discipline, what Reinhardt proffered was arguably closer to an ascetic rather than an aesthetic modernism wherein there was nothing ‘to take hold of, neither place, time, measure nor anything else . . . [b]eyond essence, inconceivability.’72 Whilst it would be easy to construe Reinhardt’s monochromacity with its obdurate, unyielding blackness as perhaps giving concrete form to such negation, (indeed by the artist’s own admission black ‘is negation’ [original emphasis], it is perhaps within the inherent pictorial qualities of the paintings themselves that meaning, if not salvation could become inscribed.73 As we have already observed, Reinhardt had spoken of a particular quality of darkness or blackness that, for the artist at least, was difficult to pin down. In one sense this can be construed if we consider the fact that the black paintings were entirely reliant upon a sustained and focused form of attention. As Rose had noted, the almost imperceptible cruciform design that inhered within as much as it was set out across the matt, velvet blackness of the painting’s surface was only revealed through the act of sustained, attentive viewing.74 In this respect, it is perhaps entirely apposite that Reinhardt would jot down the following statement by Nicholas of Cusa, the fifteenth-century philosopher and theologian: ‘How needful it is to enter into the darkness and to admit the coincidence of opposites to seek the truth where impossibility meets us.’75 Indeed, Reinhardt would attempt to square Nicholas of Cusa’s meditations on darkness with his own. In a series of unpublished, undated notes entitled ‘Dark’ the artist wrote: ‘Dematerialization . . . darkness not seen . . . Darkness is pure non-being . . . perceiving the non-existent.’76 Moreover, it seems reasonable to suggest that for Reinhardt, blackness and darkness were, if not mutually inclusive terms, at least terms that were coterminous. In a series of unpublished, undated notes entitled ‘Black,’ the artist had written: “Black,” absence of “color,” colorlessness, darkness, lightlessness.’ [original emphasis]77 It is here then, perhaps that the literal blackness of the paintings became consonant with a set of understandings wherein what was imperative was to push ‘painting beyond its unthinkable, seeable, feelable limits.’78 It is perhaps also here wherein the proclivity, if not the actual conditions of possibility to attribute a mystical set of connotations to the black paintings is able to gain a measure of purchase. Certainly, when he writes

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in a separate set of unpublished and undated notes, of an ‘ineffable energy, seen invisibly, known unknowably’ such a reading begins to coalesce.79 In one respect, such a particular set of ambitions for the artwork is more broadly representative, as Thomas McEvilley notes, of one of the two main threads that worked to define the twentieth-century monochrome, namely the metaphysical.80 Moreover, whilst this particular determination of the monochrome, according to McEvilley is consonant with the work of Malevich, the other main ontological thread of the monochrome, the materialist is more closely bound up with the work of Aleksandr Rodchenko. Rodchenko’s repudiation of representational painting engendered the conditions of possibility for the Constructivist work of art to be produced in a way that was systematic and that was somehow consonant with ‘technology, engineering and industry’ without being necessarily subservient to such structures.81 It would arguably take the machinal, anonymised and arguably deskilled silkscreens of Andy Warhol to take Tarabukin’s claims at face value and wholly disarticulate the work of art from its maker’s valences. Having once remained habitually ensconced within the methodology of production, Warhol, by claiming that ‘everybody should be a machine’ outflanked, if not short-circuited the value-laden traditions that were bound up with the artisanal.82 In one sense, Warhol’s repudiation of the hand was arguably more broadly symptomatic of a climate wherein art’s historically received complicity with technical skill had now been found wanting. Today, one artist who appears to have adopted and, moreover adapted this mechanised approach to picture making and, like Warhol before him, has sought recourse to a variant range of available digital technologies is Wade Guyton. According to Scott Rothkopf, having initially sought to partially obscure printed material by way of a form of doodling, the artist realised that, given his intentions, such an endeavor was an entirely unnecessary way of expending his energy: ‘Why am I making this drawing,’ he recalls asking himself. ‘It seemed dumb to be sitting here drawing, but it didn’t seem dumb enough. If I was going to do something that required no skill, it shouldn’t require my labor.’83 It was at this point the artist realized that he could use the technology that was at hand, in this case a

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Figure 11. Source file for Guyton’s monochromes

printer and a computer to make the drawings for him: ‘My printer was sitting there . . . and it just seemed like a more efficient way to make this mark.’84 Within the context of his practice, from that point Guyton has made a body of paintings utilizing an Epson inkjet printer. Whilst some of these paintings consist only of configurations of the letter ‘x’ using the sans serif font Blair ITC Medium and others have incorporated an image of flames derived from the front cover of an edition of Stephen King’s Firestarter, Guyton has also produced a series of what are, in effect, black monochrome paintings. 65

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Having folded a length of pre-primed canvas longitudinally down the middle, the 44 inch wide end of the support is then fed into an Epson 9600 ink jet printer. A black file that the artist has rendered on his computer and that is hooked up to the printer is now printed onto what constitutes one vertical half of the lead white support of the painting. Once the (non)image has been printed, Guyton then proceeds to turn the support over and repeats the self-same process on the remaining half. Having printed on the two sections of the support, the image of the painting as such is complete. However, and unlike Ad Reinhardt’s continuous and highly nuanced painterly surfaces, the black monochromes of Wade Guyton betray the fact that they are the direct result of an imperfect, mechanised process. To this end, and concomitant with Warhol’s silkscreen paintings, the images borne out of the process Guyton has adopted entail a variegated series of inconsistencies, including instances wherein the image has misregistered. The paintings’ kinship with Warhol’s silkscreens that is evident through both their technical flaws and more broadly their ambivalence towards authorial presence is perhaps one instance of how the series, and Guytons’ work generally has been characterised as consisting of ‘citations from the history of modernism.’85 In addition to Warhol’s deadpanning of popular culture’s imagistic vestiges, both celebrated and demotic, another such citation is arguably that of Frank Stella’s black paintings. Certainly both artists appear to have adopted, either conceptually in Stella’s case or quite literally with Guyton, a distinctly ‘hands off’ approach to the making of their respective paintings. Perhaps more pointedly, and beyond the fact that the black stripe paintings of Stella bear certain stylistic affinities with those of Guyton, what both sets of work arguably share, ontologically, is the fact that both artists are working with and towards an endpoint which is predetermined and, wherein, as Sol LeWitt had claimed apropos Conceptual Art, (although as has already been evinced, the same approach has been adopted by Coventry), the execution of the work of art is ostensibly a ‘perfunctory affair.’ Nevertheless, and in spite of the artist’s own assertions to the contrary, one salient characteristic of Guyton’s practice is its affiliations with monochromacity. As Rothkopf notes: And so despite their declarative push toward a contested history of process-based abstraction, Guyton’s black paintings managed to retain the

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quotational character that is so fundamental to all his art. What they recite is not an image scanned from a book but the elastic term “monochrome.” Like a singer who misses a note, each painting represents the interface between that received idea and its imprecise manifestation in the present – a present that is as much the instant when the canvas passes through the printer as it is a particular art historical and technological context.86

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4 Turner, Wheeler and Rauschenberg: Materialising Light Writing in The Examiner in 1816, the English essayist William Hazlitt noted a certain proclivity for the arts to ‘run into pedantry and affectation.’ Amongst those who Hazlitt deemed as being culpable of such a misdemeanor was the ‘ablest landscape-painter’ J. M. W. Turner, whose ‘pictures are . . . too much abstractions of aerial perspective, and representations not properly of the objects of nature as of the medium through which they were seen.’1 Moreover, and as Hazlitt noted, the artist delights to go back to the first chaos of the world, or to that state of things when the waters were separated from the dry land, and lightness from darkness, but as yet no living thing nor tree bearing fruit was seen upon the face of the earth. All is without form and void. Some one said of his landscapes that they were pictures of nothing, and very like. [original emphasis]2

As A. J. Finberg points out, what makes such an observation all the more intriguing is the fact that at the time this passage was written, the paintings of Turner had yet to relinquish the strictures and conventions of representation to the extent that can be seen in his latter, ostensibly more abstract compositions. Nevertheless, in one sense Hazlitt’s statement can be taken as a rehearsal of both the subsequent pictorial form Turner’s oeuvre would take and more broadly, the identification of Turner’s technical radicalism as the operative, incipient model for the subsequent pictorial language of modernist abstraction.3 71

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Although the complexity of Turner’s oeuvre is such that it is demonstrably not reducible to one particular interpretive framework or methodology, the idea that his practice functioned as a precursor for subsequent advances within twentieth-century modernism remained, up until a certain point at least, a compelling one. As Sam Smiles has noted, this idea persistently characterised historiographies of his practice during the first half of the twentieth century: The emergence in France in the later nineteenth century of new possibilities for landscape painting, especially those associated with Impressionism, together with the elaboration of a body of art criticism responding to the new painting, helped prepare the ground for the modernist interpretation of Turner’s achievement. Emphasis was now placed almost exclusively on his technique; iconographical interpretation of the sort practiced by Ruskin was replaced by formal analysis. Although the critical reaction was not uniform, for dissenting voices can be found, it is nevertheless largely true that up until the 1960s Turner was increasingly respected for his ‘anticipation’ of modern art.4

Indeed, and notwithstanding the particularities of their iconography, although the question of whether or not Turner advanced abstraction’s cause brings with it a not wholly unproblematic related set of questions bound up with both teleology and causality, questions whose complexity cannot be adequately responded to within the context of this study, on one level the perspicuous aspects of a painting such as Rough Sea (c. 1840– 5) are those that denote the ostensible novelty of his approach. As one of Turner’s unexhibited oil paintings, compositionally Rough Sea can be divided bilaterally along a centrally positioned vertical axis and into three approximately equidistant horizontal bands. With the painting organised thus, the upper two bands are comprised of monochromatic areas of light grey brown that have been, for the most part, consistently applied.5 The lowest of the three horizontal bands within the painting’s composition is arguably the most animated, and the browns in this section are both less dilute in their hue and comparably more painterly in their execution. With a figuration that ostensibly works to carry the meanings implied by the painting’s title occurring a fortiori along the upper bisecting line of this band and primarily through a notable flurry of charcoal-brown oil 72

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Figure 12. Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851, Venice with the Salute, circa 1840–5, oil on canvas, 622 × 927 mm. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner c Tate, London 2014 Bequest 1856, 

paint, the tumultuous scene is reminiscent of the ‘unaccountable masses of shades and shadows’ that Herman Melville used to describe a seascape painting in his novel Moby Dick.6 One might further develop Melville’s description by noting McEvilley’s observation that the seascapes Turner painted between 1840–45 underwent a number of significant changes. Accordingly, the ‘horizon line disappeared, and so did almost everything else. Boats dissolved into the sea, waves merged imperceptibly with light, all the elements mixed as in a huge cauldron and returned partway along the road back to primal chaos.’7 Whilst Rough Sea is ostensibly comprised of and organised around a horizon line, Venice with the Salute, (c. 1840–45) painted during the same period carries no such visual assurances. In fact, beyond a pallid looking sky that hovers over approximately the lower two thirds of the composition, the painting is predominantly comprised of a series of subtle chromatic shifts through a spectrum of yellows, pale ochres and violets. The diminishing of even a rudimentary form of aerial perspective, a technique he had used in The Opening of the Wallhalla, (1842) within 73

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what is an equally fluid and impressionistic scene means that Venice with the Salute is perhaps one of the most singular statements within the artist’s increasing proclivity to withdraw from the dictates of verisimilitude and to counter the strictures of representation. It is a painting that hovers on the verge of legibility, of decipherability, and in one sense perturbs its own visibility. And it is perhaps here that Hazlitt’s observation carries greatest resonance. Moreover, it appears to anticipate a subsequent question that would be directed towards the status and condition of the monochrome, namely, is it less than what it is, or is it, conversely, more than what it ostensibly appears to be? According to James A. W. Heffernen: ‘The paradox here – which only a philosophically informed language can explore and explain – is that the pure emptiness achieved by abstract art is somehow a plenitude, that it signifies precisely the opposite of what it presents to the eye.’8 Certainly with this painting there are virtually no internal relationships or discernable shifts, either spatially or in terms of scale and, moreover, pictorial conventions such as foreground, middle ground and distance have been almost entirely eschewed. Indeed, it is only upon close inspection that within the centre of the composition the dome of the church of Santa Maria della Salute can be discerned, but again, this is an approximation. Although in its place there is indeed something rather than nothing, that something remains for the most part inchoate, ill defined, (a quality that exceeds the simple fact that it is unfinished) and inhabits a pictorial order whose novelty, certainly at the time of its production, preceded subsequent attempts to radicalise and redistribute painting’s categorical norms. Painted during what was the artist’s third visit to the city, what Venice arguably offered Turner was the means whereby he could explore a concern that had preoccupied him over the course of his life, namely the interrelation between light and colour.9 To this end, and as Gerald Finley notes: The subject of light and colour had always fascinated Turner, and he had closely studied their effects in nature and art. A good part of his career had been dedicated to this pursuit. Many of his own ideas and observations concerning light and colour, and those of others, had been presented in lectures given by him to the Royal Academy in his capacity as Professor of Perspective (1807–37).10

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Figure 13. Isaac Newton, The light spectrum produced by refraction at a prism, from Optiks; 3rd edition, printed for W. and J. Innys London 1721. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London

Painted at approximately the same period as Venice with the Salute, it was perhaps Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) – the Morning after the Deluge – Moses writing the Book of Genesis, (1843) that registered most explicitly the artist’s preoccupation with colour, its theorisations and how they might be inscribed within a particular iconography. First exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1843 alongside the following caption: The ark stood firm on Araraty; th’returning sun Exhaled earth’s humid bubbles, and emulous of light, Reflected her lost forms, each in prismatic guise Hope’s harbinger, ephemeral as the summer fly Which rises, flits, expands, and dies.11

both Light and Colour and the related painting Shade and Darkness – the Evening of the Deluge (1843) as Finley notes, ‘offer a religious subject that has been manipulated in order to accommodate Goethe’s and Turner’s own ideas.’12 To this end, the ‘principles of darkness and light establish the appropriate contrasting tonalities that furnish the sequential narrative logic of their subject matter: the allegorical evening before and morning after the Flood.’13 Unlike in Isaac Newton’s Opticks, first published in 1704 wherein he claimed white light was heterogeneous and consisted of spectral lights of different wavelengths which, when seen in isolation, created particular 75

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spectral colours, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s subsequent theories were arguably more qualitative in their orientation.14 To this end, what marked Goethe’s approach to science was that it ‘moved away from a quantitative, materialist approach to things in nature and emphasized, instead, an intimate, firsthand encounter between student and thing studied.’15 Specifically, and as Finley observes, Goethe maintained that on the basis of observation white light is homogenous, and by stating that it is compound, Newton had destroyed the unified, harmonious character of light. Goethe accepted that the prism creates colours but disagreed that these colours are produced from white light. He held that they are the result of the interaction of the polarities of darkness and light (an ancient concept) aided by a transparent, refractory medium, the prism, which, in his view was comparable with a colourless, semitransparent medium.16

Turner had read Charles Eastlake’s translation of Goethe’s Fahrbenlehre or Theory of Colours in the early 1840s and what arguably would have left the greatest impression upon him was, as Gage notes, ‘the table of polarities in which the poet had sought to show how colour, unlike light, was “at all times specific, characteristic, significant.”’17 Given this, and arguably more broadly both Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) – the Morning after the Deluge – Moses writing the Book of Genesis and Shade and Darkness – the Evening of the Deluge ‘provided Turner with the opportunity to consider the theoretical relationships – especially the relationships between darkness and light – that he had earlier essayed in his paired historical canvasses Lord Percy and Watteau Study . . . Darkness and light, considered as discrete, abstract concepts, are presented in each of these two pairs; darkness dominates one picture in each pair; light the other.’18

However, this is not to say that Turner accepted Goethe’s ideas without reserve. Certainly, as Gage acknowledges, ‘the relationship of the painting to Goethe’s ideas is far from being straightforward.’19 Rather than an unqualified valorisation of the poet’s theories, Turner’s annotations, to the extent wherein he observed that there was ‘nothing about Shadow or 76

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Shade as Shade and shadow Pictorially or optically be,’ betrayed an ambivalence towards Goethe’s pronouncements on colour.20 Nevertheless, what was certain was that light, albeit ‘countenanced [by] nature,’ remained for the artist an elemental force.21 Although there are clearly issues that attend to conceiving Turner as a proto-modernist, issues that include but are certainly not limited to the artist’s very particular iconography which has been prone to becoming supplanted by a more cumbersome and generalised teleology, it seems fair to interpret Turner as but one instance within a broader, and arguably more discursive history of artists who have sought to work with the effects and thematics of light. Whilst this history can ostensibly be traced back to Classical Antiquity, it was perhaps within the context of artistic modernism that light became conceived, if not as an elemental force, then as an actual material.22 According to Robin Clark: ‘During the 1960s and 1970s, light became the primary medium for a loosely affiliated group of artists working in Greater Los Angeles who were more intrigued by questions of perception than by the notion of crafting discrete objects.’23 Indeed, one could argue that the artists’ ambition of wanting to eschew the production and manufacture of discrete, fully bounded and handcrafted artworks that were, moreover, readily identified with a particular, historically received medium was arguably a more broadly prevalent sentiment at the time, and one that had been initially expressed by Minimalism. If one account of American postwar modernism during the period under question was represented by Greenberg’s criticism, then a differing, if not antithetical account of modernism was being claimed by those artists who in their respective ways became either directly or indirectly associated with Minimalism. To this end, a primary impulse that informed Minimalism was to somehow remove from critical discourse and artistic practice historical designations such as sculpture. However, the corollary of eschewing a historically received set of disciplinary terms was, on one level, ontological uncertainty. Arguably this accounts for the reason why in various artists’ statements written during the period under question, a broad range of descriptions, proper names and critical terms all became marshaled. On one level, the adoption of a provisional set of terms worked to shore up a set of objects, organized around a heterogeneity of materials that were in danger of being cast adrift from rather than positioned within an artistic

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and critical milieu that increasingly gave credence to theoretical exegesis as a means of legitimising the work.24 Writing in Arts Yearbook in 1965, the artist Donald Judd began his text ‘Specific Objects’ with the claim that ‘half or more of the best work in the last few years has been neither painting nor sculpture.’25 As a way of accounting for those artworks that, according to Judd, fell beyond the purview of disciplines that were discrete and historically bound, the artist sought recourse to the term ‘three-dimensional work.’26 Whilst Judd was personally keen to formulate an account of late avant-garde artistic practice that moved beyond ‘the insufficiencies of painting and sculpture,’ several other artists associated with Minimalism published artists’ statements between a period during approximately 1963 to 1968 that invariably turned upon the ontological status of what it was they were making. The reason for this proliferation of exegeses is undoubtedly complex, but arguably chief among their motivations was the need to give credence to a set of objects that appeared ostensibly neutral or inert. So, as well as ‘three-dimensional work,’ designations such as ‘structures’ and ‘proposals’ were also marshaled. Moreover, shifting the experiential basis of the artwork away from an ocularcentric and arguably passive form of spectatorship towards a mode of viewing that was more contingent, durational and embodied was a strategy that ran directly counter to the claims being made on behalf of the artwork’s status and condition by both Greenberg and Fried. As it was, the conditions of possibility were such that, following Minimalism’s lead, a phenomenological determination of the artwork could engender a set of viewing conditions that were both expansive and potentially immersive. As one artist associated with this particular period in late modernism’s history proclaimed: ‘I want the spectator to stand in the middle of the room and look at the painting and feel that if you walked into it, you’d be in another world.’27 Although the Light and Space movement had certain affinities with Minimalism, there were at least two other historical trajectories that pertained to those artists who sought to explore and exploit the qualities and characteristics of both natural and artificial light. In one sense, the artworks under consideration could arguably be construed as the logical extension of a form of experimentation which began with the European avant-garde and that subsequently became

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The basic sources of Light Art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are the avant-garde films of the 1920s and, especially, material painting. Around 1915, Cubism in France and Constructivism in Russia began to introduce new materials into painting, such as paper, wood and rubber. Subsequently, as of 1920, steel, aluminum, glass Plexiglass, mirrors and the like were all used as panel paintings; thus a genre of material painting emerged that already produced light reflections. Then, in connection with real moving objects, came the beginnings of Kinetic Art and light kinetics around 1930.28

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developed to encompass the kinetic, the constructed and the machinal. As Peter Wiebel notes:

However, and as Wiebel’s statement suggests, whilst the antecedental practices of Kinetic Art have been understood as rehearsing a set of debates and material practices that subsequently would explore the conditions of possibility for light to be used as a medium, it is arguably Light and Space’s relationship to painting, and more specifically the monochrome that is most apposite for the purposes of our own enquiry. Published in 1971, Abstract Art After 1945 sought to critically appraise the scope and import of abstraction during a period of approximately two and a half decades. Oto Bihalji-Merin’s contribution to this publication, which centered upon what was then a relatively recent impulse within artistic production that entailed the proclivity to work with ideas of both light and movement prefaced his text by way of a somewhat dramatic sweep though the annals of art history. To this end, his roster ranges from the ‘indwelling shimmer of the gold ground in Byzantine mosaics and icons,’ ‘the gleaming light of magic Venice’ provided by the canvasses of both Bellini and Giorgione through to Vermeer’s use of light which, according to the author, engendered ‘a cleansed world of propinquity and colour.’29 Evidently then, and notwithstanding the somewhat ebullient tone of Bihalji-Merin’s observations, art ‘as the field of the visible has, as painting shows, always been tied to the universe of light. For this reason, light is one of the really major themes of painting.’30 However, the point that Wiebel wants to address within the publication Light Art from Artificial Light: Light as a Medium in the Art of the 20th and 21st Centuries is that prior to such an admission, the conditioning of 79

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the artwork was such that light could only be represented. That is, it functioned as image rather than as actuality. Of course, contemporaneous with this shift were other forms of practice, both situated and performative, that collectively worked to supplant a set of representational operations in favour of a set that were rooted within the actual. For the purposes of what we are considering here, Wiebel notes that the transformation of the representation of light into the reality of light was anticipated and supported by the shift from the representation of movement (in Futurism and Cubism) to the reality of movement (in Constructivism and Kinetic Art). This turn away from strategies of representation to reality programs was of course accelerated and reinforced by the introduction of real utilitarian objects such as Duchamp’s readymades into the system of art.31

Although, and perhaps somewhat inevitably, the residual effects of artistic formalism were still continuing to inflect the discourses that pertained to these practices to the extent wherein some credence was still being given to ‘an esthetically significant work,’ what artists were becoming increasingly preoccupied with was the idea that light could act autonomously rather than be put at the service of representational ends.32 However, whilst the mechanisms of representation were eschewed, arguably a certain constancy of painting, to a lesser or greater extent, was not. To this end, and as with the case of Minimalism, the implicit horizon of the Light and Space movement, if not one of its determining factors, was painting, or a particular understanding thereof. Amongst Clark’s so-called cadre of artists based in Los Angeles whose respective practices all somehow sought to engage with the artistic possibilities offered by light, Larry Bell, Robert Irwin and Doug Wheeler all had began their respective careers as painters.33 Indeed, the proclivity for allegiances to remain with painting is evident in Douglas Wheeler’s statement that was reproduced in the Light: Object and Image exhibition catalogue: ‘Douglas Wheeler, a resident of Venice, California, uses light tubes within a traditional picture-frame format to create an image of dimensionless space. But he maintains, “I continue to think of myself as a painter.”’34 Adopting the format of the white monochrome, Douglas Wheeler was seeking to determine an artistic practice by way of exploring the 80

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conditions of possibility for light to function as a plastic medium, that is, as an actual material substance with a particular set of characteristics rather than as a phenomena that invariably became beholden to a two-dimensional image. However, and as in the case of Robert Irwin, before the conventions of painting could be entirely relinquished, Wheeler adopted the monochrome as the basis to explore a set of ambitions that would subsequently be disarticulated from the strictures of painting. To this end, and as Clark notes: ‘A key transitional work for Wheeler is his untitled “light canvas” from 1965.’35 Although the subsequent Untitled (1969) took on the appearance of a pale, greyish white monochrome, what differentiated it from comparable artworks was the fact that it incorporated neon tubing. Visually, the ‘halo-type’ effect that this decision resulted in meant that the work was no longer strictly circumscribed by its framing edges; by somehow extending beyond the literal edges of the structure itself, what Untitled more broadly necessitated was a greater consideration of the viewing conditions of the artwork so that the object could begin to be construed as being somehow continuous with rather than necessarily separate from its immediate environment.36 From a practical standpoint, and as Dawna Schuld notes, this resulted in Wheeler ‘tend[ing] even more carefully to the work’s architectural circumstances, eliminating distracting incidentals such as corners and undifferentiating the exhibiting wall from the walls, ceiling, and floor that surrounded it, effectively encasing the viewer within the work.’37 As it was, the characterisation of the artwork that acknowledged a discernable shift towards a set of contingencies whose phenomenological basis was embodied readily aligned those artists working with light to their Minimalist counterparts. Moreover, although the ‘corporeal agency’ of these works perhaps did not necessarily provide the viewer with the conditions of possibility wherein they could immerse themselves within the ‘white free abyss’ of which Malevich had previously spoken of, the dialectic with light that characterised a work such as Untitled (1969) and the experiential basis it engendered was reliant upon, if not given through its monochromacity.38 Within the development of the white monochrome during the twentieth century, the prehistory of which would encompass Alphonse Allais’s Premi`ere communion de jeunes filles chlorotiques par un temps de neige or First Communion of Anaemic Young Girls In The Snow, Kazimir Malevich’s

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Suprematist Composition: White on White is usually heralded as both the critical point of departure and the wellspring from which subsequent adaptations and variations would emerge from. Without wanting to rehearse the ostensible significance of this painting and the critical discourses it contemporaneously engendered, it is perhaps sufficient for our purposes here to note that for Malevich at least, the painting was to be interpreted within an emancipatory set of terms. To this end, and writing in the catalogue that accompanied the Tenth State Exhibition in Moscow in 1919 where he had exhibited a series of his socalled ‘white on white’ canvases, the artist proclaimed: ‘The blue colour of the sky has been overcome by the Suprematist system, it has been broken through and has entered into white, which is the true actual representation of infinity and therefore freed from the colour background of the sky.’39 Although in post-Revolutionary Russia the possibility for liberation that Malevich articulated and that he felt was embodied within his monochromatic works soon dissolved, the white monochrome as an artistic strategy persisted. No longer positioned within what ostensibly was a creationist mythology nor framed by an emancipatory zeal, the significance of Rauschenberg’s engagement with this particular idiom was that his white monochrome paintings were necessarily contingent upon and beholden to a particular set of temporalities. As Branden W. Joseph notes: The progressive elimination of pictorial elements is no longer conceived as a reduction toward the essence of painting – an aesthetic negation or, as [Hubert] Crehan termed it, “the purge.” Instead, Rauschenberg followed out the implications of the critique of negation; in eliminating artistic elements from his paintings, he was now allowing for incorporation of the temporally changing, non-art realm. By incorporating duration, the White Paintings no longer represented a return to the monochrome as degree zero of painting.40

This is perhaps why Rauschenberg, in a letter to the gallerist and art dealer Betty Parsons in 1952 could claim, ‘today was their creator.’41 Moreover, it is also arguably why they were seen as a direct riposte to the nondurational account of modernist painting as it had been propounded by formalist art criticism.42 82

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Figure 14. Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting [three panel], 1951 latex paint on canvas; 72 in. × 108 in. (182.88 cm × 274.32 cm); San Francisco Museum of c Robert Rauschenberg Modern Art, Purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis;  c Estate of Robert RauschenFoundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.  berg. DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2014

Unlike their black counterparts, the surfaces of Rauschenberg’s white monochromes were entirely flat and consisted of an unmodulated and uninflected layer of white paint that had been systematically applied. The first six of these paintings had been executed at the Black Mountain College and, as Hopps notes, at least one was used in the artist’s multimedia event Theater Piece No. 1 which was staged in 1952.43 A year later two of the white monochromes were exhibited in what was Rauschenberg’s first solo exhibition at the Stable Gallery in the fall of that year.44 In addition to the stylistic affinities Rauschenberg’s white canvases share with Suprematist Composition: White on White, Rauschenberg’s white monochromes elicit a particular relationship with light that is arguably given through the interpretive framework of the indexical sign-type. John Cage famously referred to these paintings as ‘airports for lights, shadows and particles’ and it was perhaps their contingency to the vicissitudes of their environment that such a relationship and indeed such a reading could be educed.45 Moreover, this contingency, wherein the ostensible 83

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‘reality’ of the canvas became directly aligned with the equivalent ‘reality’ of the effects it produced engendered the conditions of possibility for the indexical sign-type to become mobilised.46 Approaching the White Paintings with regard to how they engender and are contingent upon the indexical sign type, Rosalind Krauss has noted that ‘like the latter two works [Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953; Automobile Tire Print, 1953] they signal (or maybe initiated) Rauschenberg’s pursuit of the index as a way of marking.’47 According to Krauss, the historical inception of the strategy wherein artists began to conceive of the marks that were being committed to their paintings as ‘traces’ began with Pollock.48 Furthermore Krauss, writing in The Optical Unconscious in 1994 develops this idea to encompass the respective practices of Cy Twombly, Robert Morris and Andy Warhol, all of whom, according to Krauss, produced work that somehow involved critically re-interpreting Pollock’s ‘all-over’ canvases in the form of artworks that became delimited by a register of the ‘vestigial.’49 Moreover, by reading the activity of mark making upon the same terms as Pollock, the paintings of, for example Twombly also become conceived as a configuration of traces. Specifically, this activity is coextensive with a particular form of violence that Krauss claims is carried over by the graffitist’s tendentious effacement of a particular surface: ‘The violence that Twombly read in the traces left to mark the path of so many sprays of liquid thrown by Pollock . . . as graffiti, invested Pollock’s traces with a form. For the formal character of the graffito is that of violation.’50 For Krauss, this is read through an understanding of the graffiti as a finite activity of temporal severance: With the graffito, the expressive mark has a substance made up by the physical residue left by the marker’s incursion: the smear of graphite, the stain of ink, the welt thrown up by the penknife’s slash. But the form of the mark – at this level of “expression” – is itself peculiar; for it inhabits the realm of the clue, the trace, the index. Which is to say the operations of form are those of marking an event – by forming it in terms of its remains, or its precipitate – and so in marking it, of cutting the event off from the temporality of its making.51

Ostensibly, what Krauss’s reading of Twombly through Pollock denotes is, in effect, an understanding that the actual marks made, by being 84

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conceived as a reticulation of traces, involve reading the work as ‘a residue of an event.52 To the extent that the central figure of Pollock offers for Krauss an interpretive fulcrum wherein the status of the mark came to be reconfigured and assigned a much more reflexive role, Krauss’s reading of Pollock is equally informed by the semiotic operation of photography. To this end, what connects Pollock’s work with the ontology of a photograph is its dependence upon the indexical operation of the sign for its qualification. Originally conceived by the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, the index differentiates itself away from both the symbolic and the iconic sign-type because of the nature of its connection with its originating source. Whereas in the case of the symbolic sign-type, the connection is predicated upon a shared set of conventions and in the case of the iconic sign-type the connection involves an order of resemblance, in the case of the indexical sign, the connection inheres along a physical axis. Because of this physical correspondence between the signifier and the signified, Peirce assigned the photographic category of images to the indexical order of sign-types: Photographs, especially instantaneous photographs are very instructive, because we know they are in certain respects exactly like the objects they represent. But this resemblance is due to the photographs having been produced under such circumstances that they were physically forced to correspond point by point to nature. In that respect, then, they belong to the second class of signs, those by physical connection.53

And it is arguably through this particular set of terms that Rauschenberg’s white monochrome paintings, by some commentators at least, have been read, that is, through their engagement with a particular understanding of the ‘photographic’: Rauschenberg, who was active as a photographer during these years, would also make a connection between this sense of the painting as a screen onto which the shadows of passerby would be cast and the photo-sensitized surfaces that allow the photograph to register the impressions focused on them by the camera’s lens. And even closer in terms of the activity of the cast shadow, there is the parallel between the white paintings and the massive “rayograms” that Rauschenberg had executed on blueprint paper 85

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the year before, in which feet, hands, ferns, and the nude female body were fixed as fragile two-dimensional shadows on the cerulean ground.54

On one level, the characterisation of Rauschenberg’s white monochrome paintings by Cage entailed the tacit admission of both their susceptibility to the effects of chance, including the vicissitudes of the effects of their immediate environment and their recalcitrance to differentiate between art on the one hand and life on the other. However, and within a context wherein artists were seeking to proffer an account of the artwork and specifically painting that ran counter to the approach characterised by the so-called ‘New York School,’ additional practices that shared a certain kinship with the white monochromes of Rauschenberg subsequently emerged.

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5 Lightening the Idealistic Load: The Dumb, the Imprecise and the Almost The practice of Eleanore Mikus came to prominence during the early 1960s through her monochromatic Tablet series of paintings. Although Mikus’s paintings at that time were putatively concomitant with the formal appearance of Minimalism to the extent of having been, as Frances Colpitt has claimed with regards to the objects that fell within its purview, ‘rendered with a minimum of incident and compositional maneuvering,’ such a conflation is not particularly helpful for the very reason that fundamental differences remain.1 To this end, an antithetical set of characteristics were mobilised by the artist’s practice during the period in question, characteristics that became imbricated with certain particularities of lived experience and that rubbed against the very grain of aesthetic modernism.2 Having arrived in New York from Rahway in New Jersey in 1960, Mikus moved to 88th Street in New York City and then to a loft studio at 76 Jefferson. It was during this year that she had her first solo show at the Pietrantonio Gallery in New York. In 1962, two of her Tablet paintings, Tablets Two and Six were shown in a group exhibition at the Mortimer Brandt Gallery in New York. Whilst the artist’s move from New Jersey in 1960 to the first public showing of her Tablet paintings in 1962 is, by most estimations, a very short period of time with regards to the development, if not maturation of an artist’s practice, its brevity 87

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Figure 15. Eleanore Mikus, Tablet 55, 1963, (view of back); wood and Weldwood c The artist glue, 72 × 57 3/4 inches. 

nevertheless was sufficient to enable the crystallisation of what arguably was Mikus’s first significant body of paintings. The manufacture of the Tablet paintings entailed a somewhat lengthy and protracted process of construction. Beginning by placing a series of either plywood or Masonite sections of irregular dimensions directly onto the uneven surface of her studio floor, these sections would then be attached by a number of usually thicker wooden braces that were glued across the seams of the assembled sections. Once the glue had dried, Mikus would then lift the panel up from the studio floor, wherein it would then be placed within a containing frame. Having sanded the outermost edges of the Tablet, approximately six layers of gesso would be applied. 88

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According to the artist, this process took anything between ‘six weeks to a couple of years to complete.3 The resulting object’s surface, whilst entirely smooth, consisted of a number of undulations wherein pockets or shallow pools of shadow gathered and settled. As a result, whilst other artists, including Jo Baer were also concurrently exploring the ramifications of working within the formal limitations of the white monochrome, the Tablet series somehow appeared more willing to explore one of the monochrome’s characteristic traits, namely the dichotomy between opticality and literalism. To this end, whilst the Tablet series had an obdurate, physical presence, at the same time, and conversely, their respective surfaces entailed seemingly illusionistic qualities. Whilst for the purposes of this study it is not necessary to rehearse what for many were the delimiting factors, if not problematic assumptions that Greenberg’s criticism at this time was organised around, it’s perhaps sufficient to say that in the process of seeking to promulgate an advanced account of painting in America during the first half of the 1960s, Greenberg’s claims on behalf of the artwork had a significant stake within the trajectory of American Modernism with respect to the visual arts in general and abstract painting in particular. However, beyond the acknowledgement that Greenberg’s proclamations managed to establish a certain purchase within the overall development of artistic modernism in the US at that time, his influence on a local level and specifically in relation to the development of Mikus’s practice remains negligible. Moreover, the debates around his repudiation of Duchamp and the subsequent generation of artists who looked towards him as an artistic bellwether is questionable. As Mikus herself has claimed: ‘I was aware of Clement Greenberg only as an aesthetician and a writer on art criticism. As for how he felt about Robert Rauschenberg or John Cage etc., I was totally uninterested. I was a young artist struggling on the Lower East Side of New York City doing geometric paintings prior to developing the Tablet Paintings.’4 Unlike the related set of designations adopted by those artists who were operating within the purview of Minimalism, part of the impetus that informed Mikus’s decision to name her series Tablets was due to the fact that they did not automatically eschew the possibility for a particular set of meanings to be educed, claiming that ‘from childhood [people] carry . . . some sort of notational record.’5 Indeed, by placing the work within such an interpretive framework meant that whilst the

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autobiographical was not wholly dissembled, it was nevertheless tempered by a seemingly more systemised approach to artistic production. As the artist herself has observed: ‘On numbering my work “Tablet Paintings” one, two, three, etc. . . . From a very young age we are given a tablet or notebook to draw in or to write in. I called my paintings “Tablets” for documentation purposes and because I put my ideas, my feelings, my thoughts, and creativity into my work.’6 Within their apparent pursuit of pure, unembellished form and their putative distillation of painting down to a perceived set of material essences, Mikus’s Tablet paintings would appear to seek recourse to, if not entirely embody both Greenberg’s reductivist edicts and the ambitions those commentators who were operating within a context of protoMinimalism held for the work of art at that time. However, such an admission only works to belie what was, in effect, a far more intricate and complex artistic practice, a practice that at the time interrupted the dialectic of formalism as much as it sought to somehow become coterminous with it. Moreover, whilst the conflation of Mikus’s white monochrome paintings with both Greenberg’s aesthetic formalism and Minimalism’s own eradication of the superfluous and the non-essential automatically attributes their significance in relation to how they were able to become both emblematic and indeed a logical extension of an abstractionist account of modernism, such a conflation only works to bracket out the conditions of possibility for a more implicit set of meanings to become foregrounded. If there was an ambition on the part of Mikus to let the mass and, moreover, the singularity of the object on some level cohere, and certainly when Mikus herself claims that she sought to evoke a ‘feeling of peace, oneness and solidity’ there would appear to be evidence to at least suggest that this indeed was one of the ambitions that was held for her practice at the time, then this was not understood as necessarily precluding the artist’s sensibility in general and the ideas that, however obliquely, informed the production of the Tablet series in particular.7 Amongst them one could say was the work’s purported affinities with Zen Buddhism, which, at that time was more broadly indicative of America’s growing interest in Eastern philosophies and systems of belief.8 According to Robert Hobbs, Zen Buddhism ‘began to fascinate Americans after World War II and became an active force in both the artistic and the literary world . . . Zen enabled Americans to find universals in their everyday world. They appreciated its irreverence, humor, toughness, and

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ability to shock people into an understanding of the real.’9 Indeed, even to the unseasoned observer, Mikus’s Tablet paintings, with their ostensibly anonymous and uninflected surfaces would have appeared at the very least stylistically close to the white paintings of Robert Rauschenberg, a follower if not devotee of certain precepts of Eastern philosophy. However, in the case of Mikus it would be erroneous to claim that the Tablet paintings somehow directly expounded the artist’s own spiritual convictions and specifically an empathy with the philosophies of Zen. To this end, the artist had previously claimed that she didn’t consider it to be instrumental in terms of the development of her practice at that time.10 Nevertheless, her approach can be understood as being more broadly indicative of an attitude that was brought to bear to the work and of which is somehow consonant with an overarching outlook or disposition directed towards the world, a disposition that one arguably can more broadly square with certain philosophies of Zen Buddhism. For Mikus, the relationship with Zen Buddhism can perhaps be best understood if we recall an earlier observation made by the artist wherein she sought to position her work within a state that was placid and nonaggressive. As such, and as the artist herself has claimed ‘Zen gave a certain peaceful harmony to artists,’ it would appear appropriate to assume that of the many inflections of meaning the Tablets carried, one was a particular distillation of this particular philosophy of Zen.11 Indeed, Mikus has recently reiterated this position or rather disposition for the work, claiming that: ‘My work was always understated and peaceful. It relied on simplicity of form, a na¨ıve repetition of line, an understatement of feeling – structure, a restraint and timelessness in the paint surface.’12 We can arguably develop this particular imbrication of Mikus’s practice with certain precepts of Zen Buddhism through how a particular conception of time could be, as it were, written into the work. In a statement explaining her fascination with wood as a medium and as her choice of support, she claimed that: ‘I’d manipulate forms, giving only the essentials. You see the horizontal lines here. I like wood grain. I like wood, painted or otherwise. It’s like the wear and tear of life.’13 Indeed, such a predilection for decayed or worn out, worn in or worn over surfaces is also apparent within the following observation: ‘When people put tokens in for the subway, they then touch the surface of the turnstile and gradually wear away the paint and the wood. I like to get that quality in my tablets.’14 The place of the everyday, of ‘existence tout court’ within

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Mikus’s paintings, in spite of, or, perhaps indeed because of her insistence on notions of the ‘universal,’ were nevertheless intrinsically bound up with a set of particularities that sought to educe a certain poetry from a form of artistic agency that was iterative, habitual and quasi-ritualistic. As such, the ostensible aim was geared towards a moment of revelation or insight that such ritual afforded, reflecting more broadly the fact that artists who were working during the period in question were drawn to Zen because ‘it opened life up to direct experience and meaning.’15 At about the same time that Mikus was working on this particular series, another artist begun what would prove to be a lifelong engagement with the particularities of white as both support and medium. With a certain singularity of purpose, Robert Ryman has continued to pursue the manifold variations and inflections that pertain to the white monochrome. Indeed, the steadfastness of this approach, the fixation upon and sustained pursuit of what are the primary formal characteristics of painting, namely shape, selection of media, application of paint and choice of support (in the 1970s Ryman would subsequently extend his enquiry to encompass particular aspects of display), has meant that the ostensible content of the work, tautologically, is the particular givenness of such formal characteristics. Specifically, and according to Naomi Specter writing in 1974, it was with the Winsors series of paintings that Ryman ceased to use paint to make ‘something that could be seen at all apart from the paint itself. Now the work was about the nature of paint: the paint was the content of the paintings, as well as their form. They had no meaning outside the paint and the supporting material and the history of the process of the application.’16 However, and paradoxically, what such an ostensibly narrow and iterative approach to painting educes is not a reductivism, but rather a heterogeneity of materials, approaches and possibilities. The question that arguably arises from such an admission, an admission that denotes a particular type of circumvention with regard to his formalist predecessors, is not so much what are the antecedents of his practice as to rather where do the affinities with other artists’ practices reside? For to compare Ryman’s work to Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White, whilst it initially holds stylistically, quite quickly seems, feels, appears limited, if not wholly erroneous. By way of a response to such a question, and in the first instance, although the economy Ryman brings to his oeuvre seems consistent with

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both monochromacity and Minimalism’s eschewal of embellishment, what one might deem to be the extraneous and unnecessary, to consider that particular movement’s cool-headed delimitation of often industrially wrought forms one has also to acknowledge the fact that its interpretive frameworks encompassed gestalt theory and phenomenology. Likewise and in respect of those approaches to painting that fell within the critical purview of post-Minimal painting, an approximate term that sought to account for the respective practices of, inter alia, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin and Jo Baer, there was a proclivity within at least some of these artists to adopt a somewhat lyrical approach, albeit it to what often were visually pared down canvases in order to imbue the idiom of nonrepresentational painting with a very particular set of resonances. Clearly such semantic strategies throw Ryman’s practice into sharp relief and demonstrate in the process that he has chosen not to have his own practice beholden to any particular interpretive framework beyond what one might arguably describe is the artwork’s material facticity. It is perhaps for this reason that Ryman has been able to position his practice within a historically broader context of realism. To this end, and unlike other historical uses of the term, the contingencies of Ryman’s practice to realism are such that the term itself has to shift import from what is an imagistic determination to what is, in effect, non-imagistic. To this end, and as the artist has claimed: The two main procedures artists have used in painting are representation and abstraction. While abstraction has been used in many ways, the two procedures still employ a similar aesthetic, one which involves illusion. Even the most abstract painting uses a picture–based approach. The painting I make is based on a different approach. It has to do with using real light on real surfaces, rather than creating an internal illusion of light. If I use line in my work it is to do with line itself, not line as a representation of something else. I think of this as working with an outward aesthetic rather than with an inward one. I work with the painting plane in relation to the wall plane. Everything points to an approach which is a real situation rather than an illusion of the kind you get in pictures.17

However, and to return to the question at hand, does Ryman’s practice and specifically his monochomacity stand in isolation? Clearly, and as we have already observed, in order to answer this question we will have to move beyond the proclivity to determine 93

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Ryman’s artistic allegiances on terms that are broadly stylistic. If a meaningful connection is to become inscribed between Ryman’s practice and that of another, then such an endeavor will need to stem from and be cognisant of what are the salient characteristics of Ryman’s approach to painting. To this end, it is perhaps the monochromatic practices that emerged in South Korea towards the latter half of the 1960s that arguably proffer, inchoately at least, a meaningful comparison. According to Y˘ong-na Kim, towards the latter half of the 1960s representational images completely disappeared from the walls of exhibition halls in Korea and were replaced with works in all gray, white, brown, and other single color neutrals. Monochrome art, or single color painting, as the movement was called, was led by a number of established artists in their forties who had already attained a certain level of recognition in the art world . . . .The movement progressed on an individual level at first, until ´ 1975 when it was named Ecole de Seoul, which gave it the form of a group 18 movement.

Whilst Korean artists during the period in question looked towards the Mono-ha or ‘School of Things,’ a loose collective that gained a certain cultural foothold in Japan during the beginning of the 1970s, the relationship between the Mono-ha and non-representational Korean painting during the 1970s had a number of salient differences.19 For example, whilst the indeterminacy of ‘thingness’ translated into a certain lack of fixity when it came to the categories whereby a particular medium could be delimited, the flip side of this ontological indeterminacy, to some at least, implied a particular teleology that necessarily rehearsed the terms upon which a given medium became rendered obsolete.20 And it is perhaps here wherein a comparable approach to Ryman’s practice becomes inscribed. According to Joan Kee, and with respect to Ha Chong-Hyun: ‘Painting remained vital to Ha precisely because it could be perpetually reconsidered so long as one understood that the distinctions to which it was heuristically subject were initial points of negotiation as opposed to finalized conclusions.’21 Specifically, and consonant with Ryman’s own material investigations, Ha’s practice during the period in question entailed a set of actions and procedures that dialectically worked to examine what was perceived as being arguably fundamental, on one level, to painting. Although, as Kee 94

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points out, the Conjunction series ostensibly concerned the withdrawal or denial of authorship through the tendentious displacement of the hand, arguably both artists’ respective practices remained bound up with a particular examination of and dialectical enquiry into what might be construed as the formal syntax of painting.22 Indeed, what marks the project of both artists’ respective practices is their systematic and methodical approach to the task at hand, an approach that eschews the imagistic so that the work of art can be foregrounded by the specificity of its material conditions. As Kee observes in a statement that concerns Ha but is equally applicable to Ryman: In making works that provided a viewing experience made unstable by competing allegiances to pictorial composition and materiality, Ha was asking whether it was possible for painting to consist simply of its own materials and the properties intrinsic to those materials, yet without lapsing into a literal restatement of process.23

Amongst the range of working practices Ha adopted, many of the Conjunction series were constructed by the artist systematically working with and from the back of the support.24 Given this, it is perhaps worthwhile to note that the Conjunction series of paintings had previously been entitled the ‘Work’ series. Although the ‘term “work” in the context of Ha’s artistic practice called attention to the considerable physical effort involved in pushing paint from beneath a supine surface,’ more broadly it denoted the pragmatism of an enquiry that eschewed the understanding of the activity of painting as an intrinsically spontaneous and necessarily creative act.25 Whilst the artists who fell within the purview of Monochrome Art adopted a range of somewhat novel pictorial techniques, including, and as we have seen in the case of Ha Chong-Hyun, applying the back of the canvas with dye or paint until it bled through onto the surface of the painting, as Y˘ong-na Kim notes, what ‘these disparate methods had in common were first, use of almost a single color, second, emphasis on the flat surface of the canvas, and third, insistence on the continuation of East Asian spirituality and its view of nature.’26 And perhaps it is here wherein the kinship between Ha and Ryman begins to become disarticulated, for in addition to the fact that Ryman’s modus operandi is arguably part of a broader history of intellectual thought 95

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that originated in America towards the latter half of the nineteenth century, the artist’s practice remains squarely connected with and allied to a materialist rather than a metaphysical determination of monochrome painting.27 By the 1970s, and no longer tied to the exigencies of modernism, the status of the monochrome equally had all but worked through a set of impulses that were ostensibly spiritual in their orientation. This is perhaps felt in Carel Blotkamp’s remark, writing in a catalogue essay that accompanied the exhibition Basically White in 1974 wherein the following admission is made: ‘Up to now white monochrome art has been dealt with nearly exclusively in a strictly formal sense. And with good reason, because today this seems to be the predominant consideration for artists using white. More generally it can be ascertained that in abstract art the idealistic load is much lighter now than it used to be.’28 However, and in another passage within the same text, Blotkamp appears reluctant to automatically interpret this observation as evidence that the artists under consideration are simply rehearsing a formalist credo: ‘Yet it is hard to believe that these artists and many others nowadays use white in their work for purely formal-economic reasons.’29 Although there is a paucity of examples wherein artists today continue to pursue a set of aspirations that the monochrome originally foregrounded that were spiritual in their determination, the other salient impulse, namely a materialism that is ostensibly tout court is evident to the extent wherein certain artists have sought to reimagine the monochrome within what is, in effect, a context of post-formalism. Adopting this approach whilst simultaneously recasting it, Angela de la Cruz has sought to engage with the materiality of the monochrome but in a way that is improvised, irreverent and works by way of the basic admission that the monochrome, as an art form, is something which is inherently dumb. Indeed, perhaps one of the less noble qualities of the monochrome has been its characterisation as something that is essentially just that. Certainly, Guyton’s basic admission that what he was initially making wasn’t ‘dumb enough’ seems, at the very least, suggestive of what was, and perhaps continues to be, one of the monochrome’s more intriguing qualities.30 To this end, and as Batchelor has noted, the ‘monochrome is a subject that has interested me for a long time, partly because it’s the dumbest form of painting that could possibly exist.’31

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Figure 16. Natasha Kidd, Inflate I, II (installation shot), 2009/10. Canvas, tubing, valve, pump, aluminium trough and white emulsion paint, 1.5m × 0.6m × c Natasha Kidd 0.25m. 

One could say the basis of this dumbness works outwards from the decentering of the author that, in the case of Guyton’s monochromes, stems from the fact that they are manufactured by an Epson Stylus Pro 9600 inkjet printer. In fact, the eschewal of the autobiographical, the artist’s personal ‘touch’ and their subjectivity, aspects of artistic production which, according to some observers, traditionally would have been given through a particular painting’s facture, is equally evident within Natasha Kidd’s so called painting machines.32 Often entailing an elaborate combination of copper pipes, tanks and other accoutrements one perhaps more readily associates as the preserve of the hardware store, Kidd’s painting machines are programmed to produce variations of what are, in effect, white monochromes. Whilst some of these works are intravenously fed by sections of tubing or pipe that contains a continuous flow of white emulsion paint, other machines entail the painting being attached to a hydraulic armature and being repeatedly dunked into a vat of white emulsion paint. 97

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Within what is an interdependency between the machine and the manufactured, as the artist has stated herself, ‘they can’t exist without each other,’ a work such as Inflate I (2009/10) appears, on one level to rehearse and render explicit modernism’s credo of baring the device.33 Indeed, the apparently self-evident means by which these paintings are produced, namely through a mechanical process given through the decision to expose the inner workings of the artwork’s production is a more recent development within Kidd’s practice.34 Arguably these contraptions develop Batchelor’s observation that anyone ‘can make a monochrome’ to the extent wherein it would appear that anything can make a monochrome.35 Indeed, given the fact that Kidd’s machines render all but obsolete the role of the artist in relation to the artwork’s manufacture, (to reiterate LeWitt, they render the work’s execution to be an ostensibly perfunctory affair), El Lissitzky’s assertion in 1925 that ‘one can do no better than order one’s paintings by telephone from a house painter while one is lying in bed’ appears, in the case of Kidd’s ostensibly ‘hands-off approach,’ entirely apposite.36 In addition to the disavowal of authorial control by the fact that agency is taken quite literally out of the hands of the artist and conferred onto a machine, it is perhaps the inherent repetition of these works that further militates against any possibility for authorial presence. To this end, and certainly in the case of the painting machines each discrete layer becomes a further iteration away from the individually authored work and towards a situation wherein what is produced as a result communicates one of the monochrome’s necessary truths. According to Batchelor: ‘the monochrome is a kind of token-painting; an emblem of the end of painting repeated endlessly; end-game painting. The content of the monochrome is the contentless of painting and it is always essentially the same.’37 However, and returning to a previous point that was made, perhaps it is worth noting here that the monochrome’s apparent ‘dumbness’ is not necessarily to be understood as being somehow analogous with the state of being mute or speechless, although this arguably would make sense, given as we have already seen the monochrome’s somewhat ambivalent relationship to language and to speech generally. Rather, its so-called ‘dumbness’ and by extension the ‘dumb labour’ it entails for its manufacture is bound up with an economy that works to eschew technical and visual complexity. Although that is not to say that the corollary is

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the eschewal of semnatic complexity, given the reliance on language the monochrome does indeed have for its legitimization.38 Moreover, it is perhaps at this particular juncture and with this understanding that the feelings of incredulity and disbelief the white monochrome engender are no longer tarried. This is certainly Marc’s response in Yasmina Reza’s play Art to his friend’s investment in a five foot by four foot white painting.39 To a certain extent, the torpid monochromatic paintings of Angela de la Cruz align themselves with this particular understanding. Certainly their obtuseness is a quality that distinguishes them from other, arguably more refined monochromes. To this end, their somewhat languid demeanor stems from the very physical and at times aggressive working methods that the artist adopts. Rather than merely paint the objects that fall within the purview of her Everyday Paintings 1995–9 and the subsequent, ongoing series, Clutter, begun in 2003, the artist folds, breaks, partially tears, crumples and squashes both the stretcher frame and the support into a mismatched array of configurations, all of which collectively work to besmirch and bespoil what historically had been the unsullied physical status of the monochrome. In this respect, although de la Cruz’s lumpen, damaged forms might arguably be construed as but one more rehearsal of the socalled death of painting, the tone that is struck is bathetic, rather than funereal. Moreover, their limp, stricken state works to short-circuit any delusions of grandeur the objects may once have had, investing the works with an appearance that is much more earthbound, if not down at heel. In this respect, de la Cruz’s formally compromised monochrome paintings become allied to a broader set of approaches shared by a number of artists that are characterised by ‘practices of splattering, leaning, propping and depositing.’40 Indeed, the respective practices of for example Analia Saban, Andrew Dadson and Davis Rhodes all appear geared towards the production of what one might call quasi or almost-monochromes. Moreover, adopting a particular approach that the physically wrought monochrome paintings of Steven Parrino initiated, the more recent ‘imprecise manifestations,’ of the monochrome, to borrow Rothkopf’s phrase, arguably reimagines the terms upon which a materialist account of this historical form had, up until that point, been given.41 However, although these objects betray some of the characteristic traits one might associate with the state of being ‘dumb,’ as objects and artworks

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they are not wholly mute. Indeed, although they are still beholden to the monochrome as a historical form, through their capacity to recast its received attributes and conventions a particular set of meanings becomes inscribed, not the least of which is their proclivity to anthropomorphise monochrome painting to the extent wherein in the case of both Saban and de la Cruz, the objects they fashion are often prone to take on a very human set of qualities.42 The monochrome’s repudiation of painting’s representational schema arguably began with the tendentious dissolution of the figure into the ground, a process that characterised the later paintings of Turner. As McEvilley notes: ‘In effect, Turner has confronted the relationship between figure and ground and has judged it as negative, a conflict rather than a harmony. He resolves this conflict by taking the side of the ground, and dissolving the figures into it.’43 For McEvilley, this gravitation towards the entropic ground of painting is evidently the result of the artist increasingly rendering form, by way of colour, into what is a non-differentiated state: Clearly there is a subtle and interesting polychromy in these paintings, but it is a vestigial polychromy, a mere remnant of the separation that once existed on the artist’s palette – we see the colours as if he had begun to mix them all back to neutral grey, and had stopped short of this, whilst streaks and smears off differentiated colors could be seen.44

The dissolution of the figure into the operative ground of painting would subsequently be rehearsed by Malevich, both with regard to his monochrome paintings and the attendant discourses they engendered to the extent wherein Malevich’s ambitions amounted to ‘a complete rejection of all . . . painting . . . which observes a figure-ground relationship, or an interlocking figure-figure relationship, comes under this condemnation as “valueless.”’45 Given the historical moment under consideration, such a rejection was more broadly indicative of an artistic strategy for painting that consciously involved a repositioning of the object that was antithetical to its received understanding. And this questioning falls back on and invariably positions itself against the understanding of painting as a fundamentally representational art. 100

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Broadly speaking, a representational painting is an attempt to come to terms with a perpetual absence. The image conceived upon the mimetic picture plane or what we might characterise as its imagistic ground is a deliberate attempt to ‘stand-in,’ to mark through some order of correspondence, that which is not present.46 Indeed, the successful operation of presence within any contract of representation, being as it is predicated upon the copresence of absence, means that the ‘consciousness of the representation lies in knowing that the object is not there.’47 If this representational schema is developed further, representation, far from being understood in the Albertian sense as having a ‘divine power,’ inscribes a relationship between the thing and its attendant image that is far more equivocal.48 In this sense, rather than the image being conceived as a locus for appearance it is, in fact, its diametrical opposite, namely a locus of disappearance, of vanishing and of a particular staging of the vanished. On one level, the absence of the thing and the desire for its representation to dissimulate this is bound up with the fact that although the idea of lack has often characterised the monochrome, it has equally marked the project of representation. Within the various disciplines that collectively have fallen within the purview of Structuralism, when the figure of lack has been introduced it generally has complied with the term’s received definition. That is, as implying that which is either deficient or absent and providing the grounds for a negative relation to take effect.49 To this end Vladimir Propp’s understanding of the term hinges upon it being premised upon an initial deficiency. In 1928, working within the field of structural narratology, Propp identified 31 ‘functions’ after analysing one hundred folk tales. ‘Lack,’ Propp’s eighth function became grouped according to the objects that were lacking. This stemmed from an initial admission that ‘one member of a family either lacks something or desires to have something.’50 The elements of this grouping that go to make up the different instances of lack included: ‘lack of a bride . . . A Magical agent is needed . . . [and] Wondrous objects are lacking (without magical power).’51 Although in this context ‘lack’ is subsequently liquidated through 11 separate means, the parity that marks the figuration of lack, both within post-Freudian psychology and structural narratology stems from the fact that in both cases lack equates to a perceived deficiency that requires

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counter-acting.52 In this sense it is more appropriate, as A.J. Greimas and J. Court´es claim, to view lack ‘not in terms of it being, strictly speaking, a function, but rather a state.’53 Within the context of Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale, the discontinuity that lack initially produced was countered by a number of subsequent events that included the spell on a person being broken; within the context of representational painting, it was believed that painting’s immaterial plane and the myth of the essential copy would banish any factors that inhibited the mobilisation of mimesis to serve imagistic ends. The dissolution of the representational ground of painting, according to a particular historiography of painting at least, was a posteriori to the extent wherein there was a marked and evidential shift away from the inscription of a figure upon it and towards, in the final instance, a single colour of paint applied more or less consistently over the entirety of a usually square canvas. When this point had been reached, a point which in one sense putatively marked both the apotheosis and obsolescence of painting, the a priori presence of what, within representational painting was generally understood as something concrete in the world, for example a vista, a bowl of fruit or a ruling monarch shifted towards a prior and an a priori presence that was not rooted within the concrete realm of objects or indeed the spatial co-ordinates of vision but rather within the immaterial and arguably more discursive realm of ideas. To this end, although Yves Klein inhabited the artistic milieu of a late modernist, transnational avant-garde, unlike many of his peers Klein considered it incumbent upon the artist to vouch for a higher reality or spiritual truth, rather than delimit a set of realities as they were given and could be discerned within a material set of practices.54 Having initially developed these convictions with Arman Fernandez and Claude Pascal towards the tail end of the 1940s, by the beginning of the 1960s they would have appeared to many as a somewhat misplaced form of rearguardism. Certainly Piero Manzoni’s adoption of the monochrome as both an aesthetic and conceptual strategy was marked by an ambivalence in terms of to what ends it could, and indeed should orient itself towards. In ‘Free Dimension,’ a text the artist wrote and which was originally published in 1960, although Manzoni claimed that the surface of his own white monochromes (he called them ‘achromes’) was ‘neither a polar landscape,

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nor an evocative or beautiful subject . . . but a white surface which is nothing other than a colourless surface, or even a surface which quite simply “is,”’ elsewhere in the same text he also spoke of the conditions of possibility for the finiteness of the surface to be ‘multiplied to the infinite.’55 Such ambivalence is more broadly symptomatic of the fact that, as McEvilley notes, for an artist like Manzoni ‘the monochrome style was simply an inherited situation which their work had to take into account but which, like Abstract Expressionism before it, had rather lost the exalting sense of quest and adventure.’56 Nevertheless, as it was and as it would have appeared to his contemporaries at the time, it ‘was Klein above all who gave conceptual definition and verbal formulation to the monochrome, and it was Klein above all who saw the monochrome as an aspect, or possibly a symbol, of a spiritual path, and who attempted to embody its principle (“the monochrome spirit”) in his life.’57 Klein first privately showed his monochrome paintings in London in 1950, although according to the artist, he had first produced a series as early as 1947.58 It was perhaps his exhibition in 1955, ‘Yves Peintures’ which was held at the Galerie des Solitaires and that consisted of monochrome paintings of various colours that became a significant turning point in the artist’s career; in addition to meeting the art critic Pierre Restany who Klein would subsequently go on to collaborate with, Klein realised that in order for the viewer to receive the full effects of monochromacity, there should be a uniformity either in colour or in the paintings’ format. To this end, and in January 1957 he exhibited ten paintings at the Galleria Apollinaire in Milan each consisting of the same dimensions and each painted using ultramarine.59 On one level, such a ploy would have been adopted in order to facilitate the viewer, as the artist claimed himself in 1958, ‘entering into the sensitivity, the dominance, the purpose of the picture.’60 And for Klein the latter was put towards the conditions of possibility to create ‘an immense, limitless painting.’61 In a sense this statement by Klein seeks to articulate and confer onto the status of painting a certain boundlessness that arguably is in accord with some of Malevich’s own declarations vis-`a-vis the monochrome. Equally however, the statement also anticipates his so-called ‘void’ of 1958.

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Figure 17. Interior view of the Galerie Iris Clert, bare walls and entrance draped in white, during Yves Klein’s exhibition: La sp´ecialisation de la sensibilit´e a` l’´etat mati`ere premi`ere en sensibilit´e picturale stabilis´ee, later known as that of the Void, Paris, April c Yves Kein /  c ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2015 28–May 12, 1958. 

Klein’s aggrandisement of what the monochrome had originally put into effect and what we have already considered, namely the ostensible collapse of the figure into the representational ground of painting arguably begun in 1957. As McEvilley notes, in May of that year the artist ‘hung a show identical to the Milan show at the Galerie Iris Clert in Paris [entitled “Yves Klein, Propositions monochromes”]; it is at this point that the period of his self-apotheosis, or claims of complete merging with the void, begins.’62 In addition to this prefacing Le Vide, Klein had also stated his intentions by making the following declaration: ‘My paintings are invisible and it is these that I wish to display at my next Paris exhibition at the Iris Clert Gallery in a clear and positive manner.’63 La sp´ecialisation de la sensibilit´e a` l’´etat mati`ere premi`ere en sensibilit´e picturale stabilis´ee or ‘The Specialisation of Sensibility in the Raw Material State of 104

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Stabilised Pictorial Sensibility’ was staged at the Galerie Iris Clert in Paris April 28-May 12 in 1958. Alternatively entitled The Void (‘l’Exposition du Vide’) Klein’s ‘exhibition,’ apart from an empty vitrine that stood in one corner of the room, consisted of an empty, white monochromatic space. However, and as Ralph Rugoff notes, ‘though the gallery appeared unoccupied and devoid of content, Klein insisted that in fact it was filled with the medium of his own consciousness and energy.’64 Although it was perhaps Klein who more than anyone sought to conflate the monochrome with what was a broader conceptualisation of the void, as an idea it was implicit from the very beginnings of the monochrome’s genesis. Of course, for Klein the void wasn’t conceived as some form of ontological deficit but was instead, at least according to the artist, to be given concretely wherein it was assumed it would function as some form of portal towards a higher realm of being or consciousness.65 Be that as it may, what Klein’s fascination with the void denoted was a certain confluence between monochromacity and the condition or state of being either empty or blank.66 The implications of this for contemporary art, and how it strategically can be seen to respond to its ostensible existence tout court will form the basis of this study’s final chapter.

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6 The Evacuation of Imagery: Monochromacity and the Work of Nothing According to Arthur Danto, prior to Rauschenberg’s strategic deployment of the white or ostensibly ‘blank’ canvas within the context of the post-war American avant-garde, it had ‘been merely a kind of pictorial joke (showing pale girls wearing Communion frocks in the snow, which a French magazine published in 1879); an emblem of failure, as in Henry James’ story ‘The Madonna of the Future,’ where an artist is unable to mark the canvas on which he meant to transcribe his masterpiece; or as an embodiment of purity – the white radiance of eternity – as in Malevich’s White on White.’1 Evidently, and as Danto’s statement suggests, there was a point at which a shift in understanding occurred from the white, ostensibly ‘empty’ support as denoting either whimsy or failure to the conditions of possibility for it to assume a very different, if not antithetical set of meanings. To this end, the historical exigencies of modernism at that time provided a mandate wherein artists were able to challenge the strictures of pictorial representation to such an extent that what would once have been construed as being for all intents and purposes empty was now, on one level, spiritually replete.2 As McEvilley claims: The stripped canvas is an analogue of the opened mind. This desert beyond form, yet filled with pure consciousness, echoes the words of Meister 106

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Whilst repleteness, spiritual or otherwise, was one way the blank canvas became interpreted, another strategy that artists and writers sought recourse to was to claim that the blankness was to be understood as existing within a nascent state, that is, as potential. We see this in the example of the French Symbolist poet St´ephane Mallarm´e with regard to his remark ‘that the perfect poem would be a blank sheet of paper, which, containing nothing (in actuality), would contain everything (in potentiality).’4 And it also is evident in the Abstract Expressionist painter Robert Motherwell’s remark of 1963 wherein he claims that a ‘fresh white canvas is a void, as is the poet’s sheet of blank white paper.’5 Either way, what modernist aesthetic blankness worked to repudiate was a historically received set of pictorial conventions that artists working within the first half of the twentieth century felt no longer encumbered by or beholden to.6 Rather than either necessarily concurring with McEvilley’s teleological determination or subscribe to the point of view that such an ontology is still necessarily unfolding, within the context of contemporary art, or at the very least, particularly salient examples therein, the situation is arguably closer to one where, and to adapt McEvilley’s interpretive framework, a certain folding of the realm of particulars onto the monochrome is evident. As a result, whilst one can still think of the monochrome today, in particular instances and operating within certain discursive contexts as somehow encompassing a dialectic of nothingness, particular meanings are still engendered.7 The question thus becomes one of attempting to determine the meaning of such particulars. To this end, it perhaps seems appropriate to begin by considering an artist who uses the ostensible blankness of the monochrome as a means wherein the representational logic of the image is tendentiously short-circuited. In his review of Alfredo Jaar’s May 1, (2011), Stephen Knudsen makes the following observation: ‘Admirably, [Jaar] does not coddle the viewer with gratuitous accouterments, leaving the installation structurally as simple as Malevich rectangles.’8 Indeed, whilst Jaar’s practice on one level does signal certain affinities with other artists and filmmakers, the claim here is not one wherein Jaar’s practice becomes the sum of its intertextual

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Eckhart, who described his mystical experiences as taking place in a desert beyond form yet fuller than any form – a Nothing more existent than any Something.3

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references; equally, it would be erroneous to construe certain artworks Jaar has produced and that do encompass an ostensibly blank form as simply recasting the monochrome’s historically received set of meanings so that they now serve a more politicised set of ends.9 Rather, the question for us to consider here will be how within particular works by Jaar a monochromatic presence becomes operational as a reflexive site wherein the assurances once proffered by the image become problematised. To this end, we can arguably square the project of Jaar with the broader ambition of the monochrome wherein the epistemological ground of both perception and representation can be potentially thought anew. For the purposes of our study, we shall initially consider the body of work the artist made in response to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 which eventually fell under the heading: Let There Be Light: The Rwanda Project 1994–2000. The artist travelled to Rwanda in the August of 1994, four weeks after the genocide had cost the lives of one million men, women and children. During his time there, and working within a methodology of production that was ‘based on the act of witnessing,’ Jaar sought to comprehend the magnitude of what had happened through both photography and by listening to the testimony of individuals.10 According to the artist: Rwanda required me to shift my perspective quite radically. If I spent six years working on this project, it was trying different strategies of representation. Each project was a new exercise, a new strategy, and a new failure. I would learn and move on to the next exercise that also would fail and so on. Basically, this serial structure of exercises was forced by the Rwandan tragedy and my incapacity to represent it in a way that made sense.11

Jaar went on to make a total of 25 projects or, as he described them ‘exercises in representation.’ One such exercise, made in 1995 was entitled Real Pictures.12 Having taken several hundred photographs whilst he was in Rwanda, Jaar selected 60 for the installation and placed or ‘entombed’ each image within a black linen box. Upon the surface of the box a description of the photograph was inscribed. By placing each photograph within its respective box, the gaze was not reciprocated by the image it contained; instead, this moment became 108

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arrested, if not indefinitely postponed, replaced instead by a process wherein the onlooker was forced to wrestle with the gap between what was known through the information that was provided by the description of the photograph and what one imagined. The tendentious strategy of withdrawing or denying the visual within Real Pictures and thus placing ‘the reader into a different relationship with the image’ is a strategy that Jaar would return to in the subsequent Lament of the Images (2002).13 Within this work, the photographic image is present only through three backlit texts that are displayed in the first section of the installation. Each text describes a particular instance wherein the production and dissemination of the photographic image becomes forestalled. Of the three panels, one describes the U.S. Defense Department’s purchase of the exclusive rights to all of the satellite images of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries immediately prior to launching its first airstrike in Kabul, whilst a second describes Bill Gates’ intention of burying the Bettman and United Press International archive, one of the largest collections of historical photographs in the world in a mine in a remote area of western Pennsylvania. The third text recounts Nelson Mandela’s incarceration on Robben Island and specifically refers to the detrimental effects physical labour had on his vision: In the summer of 1964, Mandela and his fellow inmates in the isolation block were chained together and taken to a limestone quarry in the center of the island, where they were put to work breaking rock and digging lime. The lime was used to turn the island’s roads white. At the end of each day, the black men had themselves turned white with limedust. As they worked, the lime reflected the glare of the sun, blinding the prisoners. Their repeated requests for sunglasses to protect their eyes were denied.

Beyond lime’s associations with death, the blindness that is described in this panel becomes actualised within the adjacent space of the installation that the viewer proceeds to walk into having read the three panels. In the space’s second room, a large empty white screen greets the viewers with what can only be described is a blinding light. According to Margaret Sundell: On one hand, it alludes to the inevitable blind spots (and hence limitations) of all photographic documents. But the empty screen also serves as a visual allegory of the fate implied by Jaar’s texts: a future in which the capacity 109

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Figure 18. Alfredo Jaar, May 1, 2011, 2011. Two LCD monitors and two framed prints. Original White House photograph by Pete Souza. Photo: Frazer Spowart. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York, kamel mennour, Paris, Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin and the artist, New York to bear witness to one’s reality in the form of an image – and by extension, to imagine a possible alternative to that reality – has been permanently withdrawn.14

Rather than being construed as the ‘light of the Divine,’ the artist’s intentions are closer to affecting a deliberate shock that is felt on a physical level.15 Accordingly, and as the artist observes: ‘I wanted to complete the piece by offering a final “blinding” experience to the audience. So the next space offered a large illuminated screen that simply contained light without images, but a powerful light that left the audience temporarily out of sight and shocked into blindness.’16 Although Jaar described Lament of the Images as ‘a philosophical essay on the failure or representation,’ a subsequent work, May 1, 2011 is not so much an explication on the ruinations of representation as rather a meditation on what representation, in certain contexts, works to dissemble.17 Consisting of two LCD monitors and 2 C-prints, this wall-based work is in effect organised around a photograph Pete Souza took on the night 110

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of 1 May 2011 depicting the President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other members of the national security team in the Situation Room in the White House as they pensively watched the relay of live images which were tracking the assault by the U.S. military on Osama Bin Laden. This photograph is displayed in one of the two LCD monitors, on the right of which is a schematic diagram that details all of the figures that have been represented within Souza’s original image. Whilst the photograph attempts to give credence to what it seeks to represent, this becomes countered by what are at least two separate registers of non-representation within the work. Firstly, the scene that is being relayed and carefully followed is withheld from the view of the artwork’s audience. As a result, our only sense of what the relayed image consists of is through the pensive gazes and the tense comportment of the figures that have gathered around what we assume is some form of monitor or screen. This means that what the viewer sees is the act of looking, rather than what is being looked at. To the right of this image is a smaller diagram that lists all of the people who were gathered on that particular day in the President’s Situation Room. The absence of information and lack of visibility within the reproduction of Souza’s image becomes reiterated within a white LCD screen that is adjacently positioned to the left of the other monitor and has the same dimensions. Again, albeit it through a somewhat different set of means this monitor also directly works against and stymies the operation of representation.18 Finally, and by way of mirroring the diagram to the right of the two screens, the framed white monochrome on the far left of the work recapitulates the ostensible meanings engendered by the blank LCD screen. Modernism, and specifically the monochrome repudiated or ‘voided’ the image because it was seen as being characteristic of a set of traditions that were to be countered by the exigencies of, inter alia, pictorial novelty and technical radicalism. Jaar’s decision to withhold the image can be seen as a strategy the artist deploys which, whilst it also disrupts the internal logic of representation, does so in order to remind us that in its broadest sense the visual is always complicit with knowledge. Moreover, in a work such as Lament of the Images, the work orients the onlooker to the ‘metaphorics of vision and blindness, sight and insight, to what is obscured (censored imagery), controlled (ownership of the image), to the limits of

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both visuality and image. The excess of light, like the excess of images in our postmodern world, may well occlude the light of knowledge, the insight of knowledge.’19 In one sense, both Lament of the Images and May 1 2011 are premised on the following admission, namely that in ‘a monochrome, by definition, no event can make an appearance.’20 However, if the artist Jeff Wall is correct in this estimation, what then is it capable of rendering visible? To this end, although the monochrome appears to instantiate a dialectic of nothing, as the two works by Jaar suggests, the question that remains, and that was first broached at the beginning of this chapter is how the ‘particulars’ as designated by McEvilley become inscribed either upon or within this dialecticised nothing. Echoing Cage’s original statement with regard to Rauschenberg’s white canvases wherein they were deemed ‘airports for lights, shadows and particles,’ Danto has more recently noted that their ‘whiteness was a kind of visible silence that allowed life to register against it.’21 Within the context of contemporary art, and specifically in relation to particular cases wherein the object is on some level organised around an ostensibly monochromatic form, the precise what and indeed how of this registration is arguably not singular in its determination but is instead contingent upon the agency of both the artist and indeed the viewer. Given this, it is towards the former that we shall, in the first instance, direct our attention towards. Produced over a period of five years, 1000 Hours of Staring (1992–97), a work or more specifically a stare on paper by Tom Friedman is, in effect just that. Indeed, the central paradox of this work appears to entail the fact that whilst the work is, on one hand entirely bereft of any visual information, incidental or otherwise, on the other hand the work, if we accept that the artist has indeed done what the title suggests, on the other hand is complete, indeed is replete with the medium of ‘staring’ that has settled upon the surface of the artist’s choice of support. Confirming in an interview published in Parkett in 2002 that he did indeed stare at the piece of paper for the stated length of time, the artist offered the following explanation: I was meditating anyway, so I figured I might as well put it to some sort of use. But maybe 750 hours into this piece, one day I came to my studio to stare at the paper and I noticed a moth on the paper. I removed it but it left

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Notwithstanding the brief glitch represented by the moth’s deposit, whilst the paradox of the work is that ‘content’ in this case is simultaneously both present and absent, the underlying logic of the work short circuits the interpretive ballast of empirical evidence for what is instead an act of viewing that is more akin to a leap of faith. By looking at what has been looked at, a tacit admission becomes inscribed to the extent wherein the blank, monochromatic surface is now considered as some form of receptacle for the energies that the artist has directed towards its surface. It is perhaps at this point, wherein the work is ostensibly seen as a space of contemplation rather than a state of inertia that recalls but simultaneously counters Vincent van Gogh’s injunction to ‘dash something down if you see a blank canvas staring at you with a certain imbecility.’23 Moreover, if 1000 Hours of Staring does indeed seem ‘to aspire to the monochrome canvas of modernist abstraction,’ then it is one that is, following McEvilley, metaphysical rather than material.24 But what might this mean, and how might 1000 Hours of Staring, at the very least and beyond any merely stylistic affinities it might have, become consonant with a particular characterisation of the monochrome? To answer this question, we would have to first acknowledge that Friedman’s action appears to rehearse Klein’s own belief that a blank surface ostensibly functions as the receptacle for a latent set of energies. A year after Klein had presented to the public Le Vide, he recounted in a lecture given at the Sorbonne how he had approached its realisation:

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a poop spot. So maybe five minutes was not actually staring but removing the moth’s poop.22

I spent forty-eight hours alone in the gallery before the opening to entirely repaint the walls white, on the one hand, to clean away the impregnations of numerous preceding exhibitions [laughter], and on the other, by painting the walls the non-color white to temporarily make the gallery my place of work and creation, in a word to make the gallery my studio . . . Thus I think that the pictorial space, which I already succeeded to stabilize before and around my monochrome paintings of the preceding years, will henceforth be well established in the gallery space. My active presence in the given space will create the climate and the radiant pictorial ambience that usually reigns in the studio of any artist endowed with real power. A sensible 113

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density that is abstract yet real will exist and will live by and for itself in the places that are empty only in appearance.25

Understood in its received sense, any two-dimensional artwork’s support, in the first instance at least, is equally ‘empty.’ However, a related term, namely the ‘subjectile’ arguably both extends and focuses its meaning. As Maria-Daniella Dick and Julian Wolfreys explain: What exactly is a ‘subjectile’? Narrowly defined, it is the material or material support on which a painting or engraving is made, a substrate, so the Oxford English Dictionary informs us. A little abstractly, the subjectile is that which is adapted to receive a ‘subject’ or picture. I say ‘abstractly’ because while reception can infer the material on which the painting is made having been prepared, there is also the sense that the subject, you or I, can become the subjectile.26

The subjectile, that is, pertaining to a material and adapted to receive a ‘subject’ or picture, as a term is possibly more appropriate for the very reason that it acknowledges that first and foremost it is a material that is adapted to accordingly receive a ‘subject’ or ‘picture.’ Moreover, and as the example given by Friedman denotes, the understanding of the subjectile as a material that is receptive to a ‘subject’ will be necessarily extended to include conceiving the ‘subject’ as being directly bound up with the agency of the artist and, as we will also shortly see, the viewer as well.27 As well as painting with water, Bruno Jakob’s practice has also entailed exposing paper to the natural elements alongside the production of what he designates are ‘invisible paintings.’ Within a practice that ostensibly is aligned with (mo)nochromacity, the materials that the artist chooses to work with includes his own thoughts, actions and energies. (The list of materials for Untitled (Horse) Invisible Painting/Energy (2003) include ‘energy,’ ‘brain,’ ‘touch,’ and ‘air’). It is arguably in this respect that the medium encompasses the agency of the artist not only through the selection, in this case of a material support but also through the immaterial activities of which the artwork is predicated upon and plays host to. In this respect, it would seem entirely apposite that an artwork whose surface is devoid of any visible activity should seek to interrogate the categorical boundaries of an artwork’s 114

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Figure 19. Bruno Jakob, Nowhere But Somewhere Invisible Paintings, Installation and Performance. Nature, Insects, Humidity, Sweat, Tears, Dust, Smell, Fire, Earth, Water, Brainwaves, Energy, Touch, Thought, Light, Air, Pleasure, Pain, Fear, Music, Sound, Echoes, Memory, Talk, Love, Live, Death and the Unknown. Some are lost and have found freedom. Various techniques on different materials, sizes and in unexpected places. Music: Hans Witschi, 21.03.2014 – 17.05.2014

medium. To this end, what both Friedman and Jakob’s work attests to is not so much the medium’s obsolescence but rather its recalibration. As previously considered, the relationship between Rauschenberg’s white monochrome paintings and the photographic image was given, if we use the semiotic framework of interpretation not through its iconography, that is through resemblance, partial or otherwise, but rather through its utilisation of the indexical sign type. Arguably, such an understanding can also be applied to Jakob’s so-called Invisible Paintings. Accordingly, a work such as Jakob’s Nowhere But Somewhere Invisible Paintings can be considered as ‘a kind of ethereal photographic paper [wherein] the canvas is meant to record an invisible index – of ‘energy’ or ‘atmosphere’ of the subject it is aimed at.’28 In one sense, whilst Jakob’s paintings, like Rauschenberg’s are beholden to the indexical register, they also recast Klein’s proclivity to imbue nothingness with a psychic dimension that derives from the agency 115

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of the artist. Indeed, we could go further and extend the range of historical affiliations the work has to incorporate Malevich’s own pursuit of monochromacity, although it perhaps should be noted that Jakob does not necessarily seek to emancipate the beholder from the strictures of representation, nor are his invisible paintings premised upon or keyed into the historical narrative of the early European avant-garde that construed the emancipatory promise of abstraction as being geared towards a future utopian state. However, and like Malevich, the voiding of representation serves a particular set of ends.29 Although Jakob’s monochromes certainly don’t apotheosise empty space as it is understood by McEvilley, they nevertheless seek to encircle, if not render visible that which, as Rugoff notes, ‘is invisible, hidden, latent, or evanescent.’30 As it is, one could argue that Jakob’s practice is ostensibly geared towards the manifestation of content, albeit content that requires ideas of both production and interpretation to be thought anew. It is perhaps, as Rugoff notes, that by ‘developing an art based on evaporated and unseen imagery, Jakob directs us to put aside formalist criteria for evaluating and judging work, and to instead consider his painting as an action-based practice, a kind of temporal choreography that connects the artist to the world at large.’31 So far we have considered how two artists have sought to utilise one salient meaning of the subjectile whereby blankness can become mobilised and potentially accrue meaning. Specifically, both examples attest to the agency of the artist and what remains consonant with the historically received understanding of painting as entailing the ‘sequential deposit of the painter’s action.’32 Both Friedman and Jakob’s instrumentalisation of the surface register of their respective monochromes occurs through an attempt to transfer a particular set of energies onto a delimited, two-dimensional field or subjectile. Although it remains an open question as to whether such energies become inscribed upon as opposed to within the monochromatic surface, it is nevertheless towards the agency of the artist that such a process has been thus far understood and indeed legitimised. On one level, to extend the understanding of such a process would necessarily reposition the agency so that it is squared directly in relation to the artwork’s audience, something that we shall now turn towards and consider within the practice of Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

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Within the broad-ranging set of approaches to making that Felix Gonzalez-Torres adopted, one salient aspect of his practice entailed his socalled ‘paper stacks.’ Consisting of a body of loose sheets of paper arranged in a neat pile on the gallery floor, the works were premised on the fact that the viewer was at liberty to take the top sheet and, in effect, extricate it from the confines of the gallery space. This was with the understanding that the stack may or may not, according to the decisions made by the work’s owners, be continuously replenished.33 From a formal standpoint, the stacks are reminiscent of the minimalist ‘cube’ and certainly Gonzalez-Torres, as with the case of his late modernist predecessors, gave credence to a certain economy of the visual. However, that is perhaps where their affinity with Minimalism ends. To this end, by imbuing these works with an ostensible set of meanings, GonzalezTorres’s appropriation of Minimalism’s aesthetic, of what was on one level an established system, functioned as a tendentious form of subversion.34 Whilst some of his paper stacks carried some form of information, either visual or textual, there were instances within this particular aspect of his practice that were entirely blank. Speaking of one particular instance of this, namely Untitled (Passport), (1991), Nancy Spector has written that the work ‘[a]lludes to passages between two sites, to unfettered movement from one demarcated cultural sphere to another. A document of international travel, the passport is an empty tablet on which the records of one’s journeys are inscribed.’35 Implicit within this observation by Spector is the conditions of possibility for the onlooker to use the work’s empty white sheets as a site wherein their subjectivity can be broached. To this end the artist himself remarked, with regard to “Untitled” (Loverboy) (1990), another blank paper stack that: It has this glow. The beautiful blue creates a glow on the wall when it rests on the floor. And when you look at it, you can think about so many things. You can think of the sky. You can think about the water. You can think about pleasant things that are related to that kind of light blue. I know it has a gender connotation; you can’t get away from that. But I also meant it as this beautiful blank page onto which you can project anything you want, any image, whatever.36

Before we pursue this particular reading of Gonzalez-Torres’s stacks, a cautionary note should be struck to the extent wherein their ostensible 117

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blankness is arguably not consonant with a nascent Mallarm´eian universality. Equally, by withholding visual or textual information, neither do they rehearse Mallarm´e’s pursuit of aesthetic purity, a pursuit that was beholden to the concrete embodiment of an abstract concept, namely that of perfection.37 Such a reading then does not necessarily interpret Gonzalez-Torres’s blank sheets of paper as attempts to speak of either universality or as an aesthetic ideal. Rather, the claim we will make on their behalf stands in opposition to this understanding to the extent wherein their blankness is necessarily broached by the registration of the viewer’s subjectivity. It is in this respect that if these particular monochromes function, following Gilles Deleuze and F´elix Guattari, as bearers ‘of glimpsed forces,’ then the forces they educe and that are bestowed upon Gonzalez-Torres’s paper stacks are those that are arguably not of the artist, but rather are of the viewer.38 In one sense, such a shift in import is more broadly indicative of the inherent democracy of Gonzalez-Torres’s practice. Whilst this was perhaps more readily evident by way of the fact that there remained the conditions of possibility for a direct, physical interaction with both the paper stacks and the candy works, their dialogical dimension extended to the provision of a ‘space’ wherein the viewer’s imagination was invested with an equivalent degree of sovereignty.39 In a passage wherein she is keen to differentiate those figures, including Nicolas Bourriaud, who have sought to position Gonzalez-Torres’s work as predating a subsequent wave of convivial and participatory practices, Miwon Kwon notes that ‘these works create opportunities for viewers to engage with an artwork in which each act of engagement – the taking or not taking in the case of his stacks and spills – maintains its utter singularity and private meaning no matter how many other viewers, even a crowd, may perform exactly the same act or be witness to it.’40 Following Kwon’s observation, we could arguably extend the terms upon which such an act of engagement is given by noting Spector’s claim wherein the blank paper stacks’ ‘aesthetic space [is reserved] for the projection of dreams and memories.’41 As a site that is reciprocal to and directly contingent upon those meanings which become registered upon it, the ostensible blankness of the stacks’ respective surfaces in one sense becomes analogous to the cinema

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screen; arguably both examples are keyed into the idea of projection onto a delimited and ostensibly neutral field. Given this observation, before we attempt to draw our study to a close, it would seem apposite to consider, albeit briefly, the drive-in and movie-house photographs of the artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. According to Nancy Spector, as a sign of modernity light has encompassed ‘the streetlights of the seething city, the comforting warmth of the domestic interior, the brilliance of theatrical illumination, and the seductive illusion of the cinema.’42 To this end, and with regard to the latter, It was during cinema’s so-called ‘golden age,’ an arguably indeterminate period that nevertheless began at some point during the latter half of the 1920s that numerous ornate movie houses were constructed, sites wherein desire was both procured and sated and where the felt pressures of everyday life could be briefly allayed.43 As Peter Hay Halpert notes: ‘Like the original baroque and rococo palaces and churches on which they were modelled, these theaters were meant to overawe the audience and transport them away from the daily.’44 And it is these movie or theatre houses that the artist Hiroshi Sugimoto has used as the basis for a series of photographs that he began in 1976. In terms of their physical construction, the theater series entail a process wherein the artist leaves the shutter of his large format camera open for the duration of the film. As a result, the projection screen appears as an illuminated field.45 Clearly whilst these images carry with them fascinating, incidental details, for example in terms of how the emblazoned light upon the screen’s surface rebounds onto the adjacent architecture, creating filigreelike strands of light that trace the ornate architectural designs of a particular theatre-hall, any ostensible meanings the work may have arguably are given through the photographs’ illuminated yet indeterminate space. To begin our analysis, it is probably necessary to move outwards from the following admission. Although the photographs rehearse a formal characterisation of cinema as entailing the mechanised projection of artificial light onto a delimited planar field, it would be misplaced to see this determination as being the terms upon which their relationship to the monochrome might possibly be understood. On one level, this rectangle of light, usually positioned within what is approximately the centre of each photograph’s composition renders visible the literal site or, to refer back to an earlier term that was used,

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the subjectile upon which, one might argue, the audience’s subjectivity becomes momentarily registered upon. However, in relation to this claim is the image’s relationship to time that is articulated primarily through the bright, monochromatic spaces that each photograph is in effect compositionally and thematically organized around.46 We have already spoken of the contemporary monochrome’s inherent duplicity with the past to the extent wherein for some artists it appears to reenact a particular moment of modernism’s history. To this end, the photographs of Sugimoto that we have considered in one sense could be construed as being complicit with an errant form of nostalgia that harken back to a time that seems now to be historically remote, if not entirely inaccessible. As Peter Hay Halpert notes The white screens stand as a symbol of the technologically innovative role the cinema once played in American cultural history. The screens seem to serve as a metaphorical beacon, calling on the view to acknowledge the significance these theaters held in their time for their audiences. There is also something sad and poignant in their message. The palaces were built as communal gathering places and would have played to packed houses in those days. Yes, in the light of the screens the theaters are revealed to be empty. The void on the screen is complemented by the void in the theaters.47

The relationship Compton Drive-In, Compton, (1994) has with the monochrome exceeds or at least qualifies this nostalgia into its component parts to the extent wherein when McEvilley seeks to describe the ritualpictorial moment of the monochrome as denoting Western modernism’s ‘highest spiritual aspirations, its dream of a utopian future, its madness, its folly,’ he could arguably also be describing the terms upon which this nostalgia is given through the theater series.48 However, unlike modernism’s inauguration of the monochrome, a photograph such as Compton Drive-In, Compton speaks of the dissolution of such ideas, rather than their furtherance. Within each photograph wherein, as Jason Oddy notes, ‘time is visibly brought to heel,’ arguably what remains, what withstands although a luminous blankness, is a blankness nonetheless.49 Whilst Malevich voided representation through the withdrawal of the painted image, Sugimoto voids the operational basis of representation through light, through a 120

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Figure 20. Ceal Floyer, Auto Focus, 2002. Light projection with Leica Pradovit P-150 projector and Unicol ‘telescopic tilting stand’ Variable. Photograph by Dave c DACS 2014 & Ceal Floyer; VG Bildkunst, Bonn, Courtesy: Lisson Morgan  Gallery, London

luminescent ‘no-image’ wherein the Platonic shadows appear to have been all but erased.50 On one level, Sugimoto’s Theater series are premised upon the fact that the luminescent field contained within each photograph is simultaneously an aggregation and a diminishment of a totality. To this end, whilst this monochromatic field denotes the afterlife of Sugimoto’s particular photographic method, it nevertheless remains premised upon and is organised around the tangibility of what is, or rather, of what was, present. Auto Focus by Ceal Floyer, in contrast, carries with it no such assurances. 121

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Using a Leica Pradovit P-150 carousel slide projector positioned on a Unicol telescopic tilting stand, the work entails the machine’s endless attempts to focus its projection. However, as there is no carousel to house a slide that would ordinarily be projected, the machine is consigned to a fate that is almost Beckettian in its futility. Through the iterative movement of the lens as it attempts to both focus nothing and focus upon a nothing, a monochromatic field of white light is projected onto the adjacent wall of the gallery space.51 Whilst a number of works by the artist Ceal Floyer have sought to engage, tacitly or otherwise, with the monochrome, they all remain unencumbered by the preoccupations, both materialist and transcendentalist, of their forebears. Instead, a work such as Monochrome Till Receipt (White), (1999) orients itself towards a more deadpan interpretation of the historical form. With an approach that is both deft and insouciant in equal measure, Floyer’s modest work on paper, if we can call it such, extends this characterisation of the monochrome by presenting a till receipt from Morrisons that lists 49 items purchased, ranging from ‘Nivea For Men’ to ‘’M’ Cotton Wool Buds. The common denominator of all of the items or, to borrow McEvilley’s designation, ‘particulars’ that have been purchased by Floyer is the fact that they are all white. As a result, this Ready-made that, in turn, inventorises a number of other Ready-mades presents at least two possible readings, both of which are bound up with the history of painting. In the generic sense, certain commentators have likened this work to a still life, albeit one that is singularly lacking any aspects that traditionally a viewer of this particular genre of painting would have been traditionally accustomed to. More specifically, Monochrome Till Receipt creatively misunderstands the historical basis of the white monochrome, its means and indeed the ends towards which it sought to orient itself towards. The means of Auto Focus, namely the projector’s iterative, mechanised attempts to reinstate the wholly absent and the ends, that is, a delimited, hesitant field of projected light results in reading the monochrome in one sense as a spectre, as a ghost that, like Auto Focus’s projected area of light on the wall, is mutable, unstable and indeterminate. We began this chapter with a particular claim, made on behalf of the monochrome that within the evacuation of any imagery, of all but any surface effects and of any ostensible subject matter, such emptiness was,

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at certain historical moments construed as that which was, conversely, manifestly replete, a Nothing, as McEvilley has noted, more ‘existent than any Something.’ Although monochromacity today, and we would include Floyer’s Auto Focus within the purview of which we describe, is no longer beholden to the ambitions of which McEvilley’s statement denotes, as a Nothing it is nevertheless existent, and arguably as persistent, as the antecedental practices to which McEvilley refers. To this end, and with respect more broadly to the contemporary artworks that this study has now considered, as Nothings they are anything but.

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Notes Introduction: Where Images Are Not 1. ‘Prometto ma non ritratto,’ (unpublished, c. 1935) in Rodchenko. Grafico, designer, fotografo. A. Lavrent’ev (ed.), Milan: Mazzotta, 1992, p. 52, reproduced in Barbara Rose et al., Monochromes: From Malevich to the Present, Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2007, p. 182. 2. Gareth Harris, ‘Art in the Age of Global Terrorism: The Story of Gregor Schneider’s Installation for St Mark’s Square,’ Art Newspaper, no. 160, JulyAugust 2005, p. 7. 3. According to the artist: ‘END, which is sited in front of the Museum Abteiberg in M¨onchengladbach is for me an alternative design for a museum – it is not bright, light and white but dark and black. For me, black represents nothingness. Black describes the absence of light. The black funnel was built so that it would absorb the light like a vacuum, from there death can flow. END developed out of the desire to enter the black cube.’ Gilda Williams, ‘Doubling: Gregor Schneider interviewed by Gilda Williams,’ Art Monthly 340, October 2010, pp. 2–3. 4. Ibid. Schneider’s orchestration of the viewing experience can, on one level be understood as but one instance of what is a broader tendency within recent art. According to James Westcott: ‘Installations that transform the audience into performer-participants aren’t particularly new, but they seem to be getting more popular. There was Deborah Warner’s Angel Project in New York in, where viewers toured creepy abandoned buildings in the city and communed with angel-actors; the much-celebrated tripped-out fluorescent disco room installation at the Whitney Biennial by Assume Vivid Astro Focus; and almost every exhibition at P.S.1, in Queens, seems to 125

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5.

6. 7.

8.

9. 10.

11.

12.

126

have at least one installation that involves putting on those shoe-condoms and climbing into something, crouching down, clambering around, or riding something.’ James Westcott, ‘Gregor Schneider and the Flattering Performance Installation,’ TDR: The Drama Review, Winter 2005, vol, 49, issue 4, pp. 186–187. Black Square: Hommage a` Malevich was staged at the Kunsthalle Hamburg from 23 March – 10 June 2007 and as well as including work of Malevich’s contemporaries, also showcased work from those artists who have used Black Square as an aesthetic or conceptual point of departure. Joseph Masheck, ‘Black Square,’ Art Monthly, 308, July-August 2007, p. 11. As will be educed within the main body of the study, ‘it was in the works of the Russian artists Kasimir Malevich and Alexander Rodchenko that the two great threads of the twentieth-century monochrome – the metaphysical and the materialist – were defined.’ Thomas McEvilley, ‘Seeking the Primal Through Paint: The Monochrome Icon,’ in G. Roger Denson & Thomas McEvilley, Capacity: History, the World, and the Self in Contemporary Art Criticism, Amsterdam: G+B Arts International, 1996, pp. 53–54. Arthur C. Danto, The Madonna of the Future: Essays in a Pluralistic World, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, University of California Press, 2001, p. 307. Rose, Monochromes: From Malevich to the Present, pp. 24–25. John C. Welchman, Invisible Colors: A Visual History of Titles, New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1997, p. 106. As Walead Beshty has pointed out, this joke was subsequently stolen by Malevich ‘who in the same year as Black Square produced the painting Red Square, which included a Bilhaudian parenthetical addendum in its title (Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions).’ Walead Beshty, ‘Studio Narratives,’ in Mary Jane Jacob and Michelle Grabner (eds), The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010, p. 330. Arthur C. Danto, Unnatural Wonders: Essays from the Gap Between Art and Life, New York: Columbia University Press, 2007, p. 251. This is a point that had previously been observed by Carel Blotkamp: ‘Monochrome could not gain more than an incidental value in Western art until the Renaissance notion of painting giving a view of the outer world was abandoned: roughly in the time between impressionism and cubism.’ Carel Blotkamp, ‘Introduction,’ in Basically White, London: ICA, 1974, p. 7. ‘In the present moment, however, it appears that a number of artists seek to define art first and foremost in the thickness of its relationship to history. More and more frequently, art finds itself looking back, both at its own

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14. 15.

16.

past (a very popular approach right now, as well as big business), and at “the” past in general.’ Dieter Roelstraete, ‘The Way of the Shovel: On the Archaeological Imaginary in Art,’ e-flux Journal no. 4, March 2009 Available at http://www.e-flux.com/journal/the-way-of-the-shovel-on-thearcheological-imaginary-in-art/ accessed 20 December 2013. With regard to the historiographical mode, Roelstraete makes the following observation: ‘A steadily growing number of contemporary art practices engage not only in storytelling, but more specifically in history-telling. The retrospective, historiographic mode – a methodological complex that includes the historical account, the archive, the document, the act of excavating and unearthing, the memorial, the art of reconstruction and re-enactment, the testimony – has become both the mandate (“content”) and the tone (“form”) favoured by a growing number of artists (as well as critics and curators of varying ages and backgrounds.’ Ibid. David Batchelor has previously remarked upon the conditions of possibility for the monochrome to work across disciplinary boundaries: ‘This is what I want to argue: that the monochrome has been many things to many people; and that it has resulted and can still result in work which is either adventurous or academic, absurdist or serious, amateur or professional, hilarious or humourless, critical or conventional, beautiful or banal, innocent or implicated, light or heavy, literalist or illusionistic, mystical or materialist, quick or dead. And this: that these and other possibilities continue to make up a practice which has in different instances signified either the end of painting, or the renewal of painting, or the breakdown of the distinction between painting and sculpture, or the transformation of painting into something else entirely.’ David Batchelor, ‘In bed with the monochrome,’ in From an Aesthetic Point of View: Philosophy, Art and the Senses, Peter Osborne (ed.), London: Serpent’s Tail, 2000, p. 156. T. J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, p. 254. ‘A sensible density that is abstract yet real will exist and will live by and for itself in the places that are empty only in appearance.’ Yves Klein, ‘The Evolution of Art Towards the Immaterial, Lecture at the Sorbonne, 3 June 1959,’ in Overcoming the problematics of art: the writings of Yves Klein, Klaus Ottmann (trans.), Putnam, CT: Spring Publications, 2007, p. 82. According to the artist, ‘I found that [the] imaginary was a taboo in the Square.’ Minna Valjakka, ‘Performance Art at Tian’anmen,’ KONTUR, 20 – 2010, p. 24.

NOTES P. 5–6

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NOTES P. 7–11

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17. Stephanie Rosenthal, Black Paintings, Munich: Haus der Kunst, 2006, p. 14. This belief is confirmed by the fourteenth-century architect and theorist Leon Battista Alberti: ‘Black has a similar power, for many species of colours arise from the addition of black . . . white and black are not true colours, but one might say, moderators of colours [colorum alteratores], for the painter will find nothing but white to present the brightest glow of light, and only black for the darkest shadows.’ Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting and Sculpture, Cecil Grayson (ed. & trans), London: Phaidon 1972, p. 47. 18. Piet Mondrian, ‘The Plastic Means,’ (1927) reproduced in Mary Ann Claws (ed.), Manifesto: A Century of Isms, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001, p. 432. 19. Kenneth C. Lindsay and Peter Vergo (eds), Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, New York: Da Capo Press, 1994, p. 185. 20. The construal of such a reading is notably evident within Edmund Burke’s own writings on the subject. Having first established that ‘darkness and blackness are much the same; and they differ only in this, that blackness is a more confined idea,’ the latitude that Burke confers onto darkness is for the sake of a set of connotative ends. Edmund Burke, On Taste, on the Sublime and Beautiful, Reflections on the French Revolution & a Letter to a Noble Lord, vol. xxiv, New York: Cosimo Books, 2009, p. 121. As the eighteenthcentury philosopher observes: ‘As to the association of ghosts and goblins; surely it is more natural to think, that darkness, being originally an idea of terror, was chosen as a fit scene for such terrible representations, than that such representations have made darkness terrible.’ Ibid. 21. ‘What do images do? Where and how should they be or rather not be?,’ in John Cage, Silence. Lectures and Writings, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, 1961, p. 105ff, quoted in Hans Belting, ‘Beyond Iconoclasm: Nam June Paik, the Zen Gaze and the Escape from Representation,’ in Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art, Bruno Latour & Peter Wiebel (eds), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002, p. 392.

Chapter 1 Fathoming Darkness: Arrested Vision and Monochromacity in the Work of Balka, Whiteread and Paterson 1. Linda S. Boersma, 0.10: The Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 1994, p. 35. 2. Ibid. 3. Charlotte Douglas, Swans of Other Worlds, Kasimir Malevich and the Origins of Abstraction in Russia, Ann Arbor: UMI, 1980, p. 54. As Thomas McEvilley 128

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8.

9. 10.

11.

12. 13.

NOTES P. 11–14

4.

has observed, Malevich’s proclamations amounted to ‘a complete rejection of all previous, and much later, painting.’ Thomas McEvilley, The Monochrome Adventure: A Study in the Form and Content of Modern Painting, Inglewood, California: Full Court Press, 1981, pp. 37–38. Bruce Altshuler, The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20 th Century, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1994, p. 90. Boersma, 0.10: The Last Futurist Exhibition of Painting, pp. 51–2. Alison Hilton, Russian Folk Art, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1995, p. 25. Larissa Alekseevna Zhadova, Malevich: Suprematism and Revolution in Russian Art 1910–1930, London: Thames & Hudson, 1982, p. 43. Such vitriol, according to Zhadova was perhaps inevitable, given the fact that, as she notes, even ‘the straightforward Cubist canvases, of which there were several by Lyubov Popova, Olga Rozanova and Nadezhada Udaltsova, seemed incomprehensible and menacing to the majority of visitors.’ Ibid. Branislav Jakovljevic, ‘Hinging on Nothing: Malevich’s Total Art,’ in Mathieu Copeland (ed.), Voids: A Retrospective, Letzigraben: JRP/Ringier, 2009, p. 190. John Golding, Visions of the Modern, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994, p. 176. Charles Harrison, ‘Abstraction’ in Charles Harrison, Francis Frascina, Gill Perry (eds), Primitivism, Cubism, Abstraction: the Early Twentieth Century, New Haven and London: Yale University Press in association with the Open University, 1993, p. 236. Indeed, as Harrison notes, the significance of Malevich’s set designs are also evident within a letter the artist wrote to Matiushin in 1915: ‘I’ll be very grateful if you yourself would position my curtain design for the act in which the victory is won . . . This drawing [or design] will have great significance for painting; what had been done unconsciously, is now bearing extraordinary fruit.’ Ibid. Malevich’s text was published in three editions. Following its initial publication in December 1915 to accompany the exhibition, it was then published again in January 1916. Its final edition, unlike the previous two, was published in Moscow in November 1916, although as John E. Bowlt notes, it was signed and dated 1915. John E. Bowlt (ed.), Russian Art of the AvantGarde: Theory and Criticism, London: Thames & Hudson, 1988, p. 116. Kasimir Malevich, ‘From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism: The New Painterly Realism,’ in ibid, p. 133. Ibid. During the first two decades of the twentieth century in Russia the schools of Realism, Symbolism and Naturalism gradually became supplanted

129

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14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

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by a set of artistic movements that were unique to the Russian avantgarde. As Magdalena Dabrowski observes: ‘The artistic and philosophical revolution occurred in different stages, beginning with Neoprimitivism in 1908 and culminating in consructivism in 1920.’ Magdalena Dabrowski, ‘The Russian Contribution to Modernism: ‘Construction’ as Realisation of Innovative Aesthetic Concepts of the Russian Avant Garde,’ Ph.D. diss., New York Institute of Fine Arts, 1990, p. 13. As Urszula Szulakowska notes, ‘Fludd was a respected English physician working for the royal court, as well as a prolific encyclopaedist of hermetic and mechanical knowledge. Although his Anglican loyalties were never questioned, he achieved a certain notoriety in his own time for his early support of the Roiscrucian Manifestoes in his Apologia (1616), expanded into the Tractatus Apologeticus (1618).’ Urszula Szulakowska, The Alchemy of Light: Geometry and Optics in Late Renaissance Alchemical Illustration, Leiden; Boston; Koln: Brill, 2000, p. 168. According to Robert J. Forbes, whilst the Egyptians ‘called their county km.’t, that is “the black land” . . . even the Coptic “keme” is never connected with “the black art” or alchemy in any text.’ Robert J. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology Volume 1, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1993, p. 126. A possible alternative, as Forbes notes, is the ‘derivation of the word alchemy from the Greek “chyma” [which means] “casting.”’ Ibid. Antonio Clericuzio, Elements, Principles and Corpuscles: A Study of Atomism and Chemistry in the Seventeenth Century, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000, p. 72. This is not something that went unnoticed and as Clericuzio observes, Fludd’s attempt to conflate alchemy with both the cabala and religion was criticised by, amongst others, the Christian atomist Petri Gassendi. Ibid., p. 71. Angeline Morrison, ‘Autobiography of an (Ex) Coloured Surface,’ in Kobena Mercer (ed.), Discrepant Abstraction, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006, p. 140. Given the recurring themes of displacement, mobility and travel that inform Balka’s practice, it is perhaps entirely apposite the artist would construct a space that, given what it resembles, would carry these connotations. For example, How It Is can be understood as having particular affinities with a number of related historical moments and cultural ideas. Indeed, according to Paolo Herkenhoff, the artist is ‘offering a vast history of darkness, a layering of connections, concepts and facts, sources and references that are devoid of hierarchy and that propose conjunctions of personal and historical memory; these may range from the cellar in his studio in Otwock,

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23. 24.

25.

to a Suprematist painting by Kasimir Malevich, to Plato’s cave, to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness . . . to the Ka’ba and to cosmic black holes.’ Paulo Herkenhoff, ‘The Illuminating Darkness of How It Is,’ in Helen Sainsbury (ed.), Miroslaw Balka How It Is, London: Tate Publishing, 2009, p. 50. From the standpoint of the many references it has to the history of art, and beyond the intellectual framework of Malevich’s Suprematist monism, what James Lee Byars’s The Ghost of James Lee Byars, (1969) shares with Balka’s work is the fact that both presented the viewer with spaces that were entirely devoid of light. Moreover, each work is directly reliant upon the viewer’s embodied presence as the means wherein meaning might become mobilised. Although the title of Byars’s relatively earlier installation was somewhat of a misnomer, (the artist died in Cairo 1997), the work was nevertheless bound up with the artist’s proclivity to self-mythologise. Herkenhoff, ‘The Illuminating Darkness of How It Is,’ p. 84. Ibid. According to the artist in an interview, ‘between ’56 and ’58 was the first time I made a black painting.’ Oral history interview with Wally Hedrick, 1974 June 10–24, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Available at http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-historyinterview-wally-hedrick-12869 (accessed 27 December 2014). In the same interview, Hedrick made the following observation with regard to the operative role of black within his practice: ‘Luckily, I’ve had enough time now to look back on them, and I can fairly well sort out what it means. Sure, black might have something to do with our conscience or soul, but that is not what I had in mind. Black to me is the absence of light, and I’m very concerned with light. And so black paintings were not so much that they were black, but that they weren’t light. That’s about all I can say now. But to me, that makes it all very clear.’ Ibid. Ibid. ‘Interview with Lynn Barber’ in The Observer, 1 September 1996 reproduced in Patrick Elliott, ‘Sculpting Nothing: An Introduction to the Work of Rachel Whiteread,’ in Lisa G. Gorrin et al., Rachel Whiteread, Edinburgh; London: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Serpentine Gallery, 2001, p. 10. Rachel Whiteread quoted in Gorrin, Rachel Whiteread, p. 23. The full quotation is as follows: ‘As a child, I used to sit in wardrobes. My parents had this wardrobe that was full of clothes and boxes full of fabric. You could be in this place that was incredibly comforting, and dark, totally surrounded by material. There would be a little chunk of light, but essentially it was black, and it

NOTES P. 17–20

20. 21. 22.

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26. 27.

28.

29.

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was totally enveloping. I wanted to make that experience tangible, that’s sort of where that thing came from.’ Ibid. Interestingly, and as Anthony Vidler notes, given Sigmund Freud’s own imperviousness to spatial questions, ‘it was left to phenomenologists from [Eugene] Minkowski to [Ludwig] Binswanger to recognize that space itself might be psychologically determined and thereby . . . read as a symptom, if not an instrument, of trauma and neurosis. Tellingly, Minkowski writes of “black” or “dark” space, that space which, despite all loss of vision – in the dark or blindfolded – a subject might palpably feel: the space of bodily and sensorial if not intellectual existence.’ Anthony Vidler, Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and the Uncanny in Modern Culture, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001, p. 148. Vidler goes on to note that: ‘It is a space that Whiteread has constructed, a blindingly suffocating space that, rather than receiving its contents with comfort, expelled them like a breath.’ Ibid. Katharine A. Fowkes, The Fantasy Film, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, p. 147. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, Maria Jolas (trans.), Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p. 78. Later on in this chapter Bachelard quotes a passage from Arthur Rimbaud’s Les e´trennes des orphelins: ‘The wardrobe had no keys! . . . No keys had the big wardrobe, Often we used to look at its brown and black door, No keys! . . . It was strange! Many a time we dreamed, Of the mysteries lying dormant between its wooden flanks, And we thought we heard, deep in the gaping lock, A distant sound, a vague and joyful murmur.’ Arthur Rimbaud, Les e´trennes des orphelins, in Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, p. 80. Vidler, Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and the Uncanny in Modern Culture, p. 149. In addition, it would also appear that both are organised around a form of spatial reversal. To this end War Room’s construction is organised around the inversion of what is usually concealed, namely the stretcher frame together with the unprimed back of the support so that instead, and prior to moving into the inner space of the work, what forms the outer shell of the work are in fact the versos of the black monochrome canvases. In the case of Closet, a negative solid cast of the interior space of the wardrobe was made resulting in the form being inverted. As a result, the space contained within the structure and ordinarily hidden was rendered visible and given actual, tangible form. ‘John Tusa interview with Rachel Whiteread.’ Available at http://www. bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00ncxzw (accessed 27 December 2014).

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NOTES P. 21–23

30. Vidler, Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and the Uncanny in Modern Culture, p. 149. 31. Gorrin, Rachel Whiteread, p. 61. Vidler, in one sense extends this theme to encompass its affective dimension: ‘the “cast” of a building as building, with its own interior, and a cast, further, that is made of a building that never existed except in imaginary and typological form – the ark, the Temple – here intersects sculptural and architectural norms to constitute something else, a “neither-nor” of both. This crystallization of a type form, a manifestation in iconographic terms of the purely imaginary image, brings it into contact with the everyday, and with a haptic, almost felt relationship with the viewer, now become a potential toucher of books, an opener of truths, substituted for a distanced vision of monumental form.’ Vidler, Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and the Uncanny in Modern Culture, p. 149. 32. Gorrin, Rachel Whiteread, p. 61. 33. ‘If Malevich’s Black Square on a White Background, despite the poverty of its artistic meaning, did contain some painterly idea which the author called ‘economy’, ‘the fifth dimension’, then Rodchenko’s canvas, which is devoid of any content, is a meaningless, dumb and blind wall.’ Nikolai Tarabukin, ‘From the Easel to the machine,’ (1923), Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison (eds), Modern art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology, London: Harper and Row; The Open University, 1986, p. 139. 34. Arthur Danto, ‘The Vietnam Veterans Memorial,’ in The State of the Art, New York: Prentice Hall, 1987, p. 152. 35. Malevich, ‘From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism: The New Painterly Realism,’ in Bowlt, Russian Art of the Avant-Garde: Theory and Criticism, p. 133. 36. Although the Holocaust has been deemed ‘ineffable,’ as somehow being beyond any form of representation, including language, as Kayrn Ball notes, by removing ‘the Holocaust from the possibility of representation implies an attendant desire to freeze the traumatic meaning of the Final Solution as a transcendent moral crisis.’ Kayrn Ball, ‘Ex/propriating Survivor Experience, or Auschwitz “after” Lyotard’ in Ana Douglas & Thomas A. Vogler (eds), Witness and Memory: The Discourse of Trauma, London: Routledge, 2003, p. 265. With regard to the ‘ineffable’ determination of the Holocaust, see Thomas Trezise, ‘Unspeakable’ The Yale Journal of Criticism, vol. 1, no. 1, Spring 2001, pp. 39–66. 37. With what the artist considered to be a ‘black hole,’ Sol LeWitt’s Black Form Dedicated to the Missing Jews (1989) is one example wherein an artist

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38.

39.

40.

41.

42.

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uses abstraction as a means of broaching historical events. See Henry W. Pickford, The Sense of Semblance: Philosophical Analyses of Holocaust Art, New York: Fordham University Press, 2013, p. 116. First constructed in M¨unster, Germany in 1987 for inclusion within Germany’s ‘Skulptur Projekte 87,’ Black Form Dedicated to the Missing Jews was tendentiously positioned directly in front of the city’s palace. Spanning 5.5 × 2 × 2 metres and constructed out of a series of black cinder blocks, its obdurate, singular presence was unable to withstand the protestations of the local residents and consequently the ‘form’ was demolished in 1988. However, during the following year the structure was re-sited and rebuilt in Altona, Hamburg, following an invitation from the city’s Kulturbeh¨orde (Cultural Authority). See James E. Young, ‘The German Counter-Monument’ in Art and the Public Sphere, W. J. T. Mitchell (ed.), Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992, pp. 49–50. As John Gage notes, during ‘the course of the [seventeenth century] darkness was allowed to be more positive than even Leonardo had felt possible: the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher argued that it could not be mere privation of light, since it had the power to induce blindness; in a long analysis of the problem he concluded: ‘Thus darkness, shadow and obscurity [obscuritas, umbra umbratioque] are not ordinary states of privation of lux or lumen, but are real entities which are called positive.’ John Gage, Colour and Culture: Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction, London: Thames and Hudson, 1995, p. 156. This particular understanding, which on one level is bound up with the physiological behavior of vision, will be considered in greater detail in the following chapter wherein the late canvases of Ad Reinhardt will be discussed. As McEvilley notes, with regard to ‘Western art history in the twentieth century, the idea of illimitable space as a symbol of the Great Void which is the essence (non-essence) of self points directly and unequivocally toward the monochrome, the featureless or nearly featureless painting which apotheosizes empty space.’ McEvilley, ‘Seeking the Primal Through Paint: The Monochrome Icon,’ p. 76. Ceci Moss, ‘Interview with Katie Paterson,’ Rhizome, Wed. 16 June 2010. Available at http://rhizome.org/editorial/2010/jun/16/interview-withkatie-paterson/ (accessed 27 December 2014). Given this, in a similar vein to the artist Susan Hiller’s installation Dedicated to the Unknown Artists (1972–6), a collection of over 300 postcards that depict

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44.

45.

46.

NOTES P. 25–29

43.

stormy seascapes, one could imagine an additional history of darkness being constructed which would be comprised of such ‘at night’ postcards. Robert Motherwell, ‘Black or White,’ in Alan R. Soloman, Black and White, New York: Jewish Museum, 1963, unpaginated. Maurice Tuchman, in New York School: The First Generation-Paintings of the 1940s and 1950s, Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles 1965, p. 13, reproduced in Stephanie Rosenthal, Black Paintings, Munich: Haus der Kunst, 2006, p. 15. Such an understanding is echoed in Alan R. Soloman’s statement, wherein: ‘Like the expansion of the scale of painting, the reduction of means represented by the elimination of color and the use of pure black and white became a major area of exploration for painters in the late forties, the early fifties and subsequently.’ Soloman, Black and White, unpaginated. Frederick de Wilde, ‘Nano Painting Artist Statement.’ Available at http://frederik-de-wilde.com/projects/nano-painting (accessed 27 December 2014). Michel Foucault, ‘On the Ways of Writing History,’ (1967), in Michel Foucault Aesthetics Essential Works of Foucault 1954–1984, vol. 2, James D. Faubion (ed.), London: Penguin, 2000, p. 289.

Chapter 2 Accumulating Discourses: Trajectories, Contingencies and Mutations 1. For Pliny the Elder, a ‘pencil’ or ‘pencillus’ was ‘the hair-pencil or brush, which was used by one class of painters.’ John Bostock and H. T. Riley (trans.), The Natural History of Pliny, vol. VI, London: Henry G. Bohn, 1857, p. 250. As Brigitte Peucker notes, this foundational and recurrent anecdote has been the preoccupation not only of art historians but media theorists, cultural historians and even psychoanalysts. See Brigitte Peucker, The Material Image: Art and the Real in Film, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2007, p. 9. 2. John Bostock & H. T. Riley, The Natural History of Pliny, p. 251. As this passage illustrates, and as Jas Elsner reminds us, ‘realism is founded on its ability to deceive.’ Jas Elsner, Roman Eyes: Visuality & Subjectivity in Art and Text, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2007, p. 125. 3. Norman Bryson, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze, London: Macmillan, 1983, p. 6. 4. Ibid., p. 1. 135

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5. According to John White, the formulation of artificial perspective in Italy during the fifteenth century was constituted by four principle characteristics: ‘(a) There is no distortion of straight lines. (b) There is no distortion, or foreshortening, of objects or distances parallel to the picture plane, which is therefore given a particular emphasis. (c) Orthogonals converge to a single vanishing point dependent on the fixed position of the observer’s eye. (d) The size of objects diminishes in an exact proportion to the distance from the observer, so that all quantities are measurable.’ John White, Birth and Rebirth of Pictorial Space, London: Faber, 1967, pp. 123–124. 6. As Robert David Sack points out: ‘Perspective painting and Renaissance cartography reinforced each other. Artists were aware of new cartographic methods and cartographers were often artists. Their interconnections may have been so close that Ptolemic rules for map projections in the Almagest may have been adopted by Alberti, one of the founders of perspective painting, in his constructions of perspectives.’ Robert David Sack, Human Territorality: Its Theory and History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. 86. 7. ‘First of all, on the surface on which I am going to paint, I draw a rectangle of whatever size I want, which I regard as an open window through which the subject to be painted is seen.’ Alberti, On Painting and Sculpture, p. 55. 8. Stephen P. Waring, Taylorism Transformed: Scientific Management Theory Since 1945, Chapel Hill; London: University of North Carolina Press, 1991, p. 98. 9. Clement Greenberg, ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch,’ in Clement Greenberg, The Collected Essays, John O’Brian (ed.), vol. 1, Perceptions and Judgments, 1939– 1944, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986, p. 17. 10. Andrew Benjamin, What is Abstraction?, London: Academy Editions, 1996, p. 13. 11. Ibid. 12. For Greenberg, writing in 1960, the essence of Modernism uses ‘the characteristic methods of a discipline to criticise the discipline itself – not in order to subvert it, but to entrench it more firmly in its area of competence.’ Clement Greenberg, ‘Modernist Painting,’ quoted in Clement Greenberg, The Collected Essays, John O’ Brian (ed.), vol. 4, Modernism With a Vengeance, 1957–1969, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993, p. 85. 13. Alan R. Soloman, Black and White, unpaginated. 14. Ben Heller, ‘Introduction,’ Ibid. 15. Ibid. As if to affirm the status of black and white in art, Jerry Saltz, writing 24 years later in a catalogue essay that accompanied the exhibition Recent

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NOTES P. 31–32

Tendencies in Black and White begins the catalogue essay with the following observations: ‘Black and white is a basic fact of art. It is intrinsic to photography, to film, to drawing, and to a certain strain of severely reduced painting. No real movement exists of ‘black and white’ per se (‘blackandwhiteism’?), but throughout the history of the avant-garde and especially in post-war art it is frequently utilized and periodically re-invented, bringing greater clarity or concentration to a work of art. Often a moment of change, even of ‘revolution’ is defined by works of art in black and white.’ Jerry Saltz, ‘Recent Tendencies in Black and White,’ in Recent Tendencies in Black and White, New York: Sidney Janis Gallery, 1987, p. 54. The notion that the use of the colour black somehow signals or is the harbinger of change is rehearsed by Frank-Thorsten Moll: ‘With “Guernica” and the “Black Square”, it is possible to see not only how painting is capable of regularly reinventing itself, but also that this reinvention is frequently, not to say almost always, connected to the color black. The extreme formulation of this thesis asserts that black always comes to be used in painting whenever societies find themselves in a situation of upheaval and seem to have lost faith in art and especially in painting.’ See ‘The Silent Eloquence of the Colour Black or Notes from the Training Camp of Art,’ in Veit Gorner, Back to Black: Black in Current Painting, Heidelberg; Hanover; Kehrer: Kestnergesellschaft, 2008, p. 175. 16. Thomas McEvilley, The Exile’s Return: Toward a Redefinition of Painting for the Post-Modern Era, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 5. Indeed, one can discern Greenberg’s claims on behalf of the purported sequential and logical unfolding of the medium’s status and condition in his writing as early as 1940. In a passage in ‘Towards a Newer Laocoon,’ a text Greenberg had originally written for Partisan Review, the critic writes that the ‘history of avant-garde painting is that of a progressive surrender to the resistance of its medium; which resistance consists chiefly in the flat picture plane’s denial of efforts to “hole through” it for realistic perspectival space.’ Clement Greenberg, ‘Towards a Newer Laocoon,’ (1940) in Greenberg, The Collected Essays and Criticism, vol. 1, Perceptions and Judgments, 1939– 1944, p. 34. 17. James S. Ackerman, Origins, Imitation, Conventions: Representation in the Visual Arts, London; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002, p. 4. 18. Ibid. Moreover, and as Bryson notes, the ‘history of the image is accordingly written in negative terms. Each ‘advance’ consists of the removal of a further obstacle between painting and the Essential Copy.’ Bryson, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze, p. 6.

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19. Gary Gutting, French Philosophy in the Twentieth-Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 250. In this respect, Greenberg’s attempted ontologisation of painting via what was ‘unique to its area of competence’ was arguably one such assumption, the corollary of which implied that the artwork was perceived as being organised around a particular set of essences and fundamentals. It could be argued that an additional force at play within this heavily contested field stems from what Michel Foucault has classified as being the ‘antilinguistic program of modernism.’ Michel Foucault, This is Not a Pipe, James Harkness (trans.), Berkeley; London: University of California Press, 1983, pp. 8–9. According to W. J. T. Mitchell: ‘The project of abstract painting (as understood by some of its principal advocates) is only secondarily an overcoming of representation or illusion; the primary aim is the erection of a wall between the arts of illusion and those of language.’ W. J. T. Mitchell, ‘Ut Pictura Theoria: Abstract Painting and the Repression of Language,’ Critical Inquiry 15, Winter 1989, p. 351. Nowhere is this idea felt more keenly than within the context of the monochrome; whilst a set of claims were made on its behalf to the extent wherein it seemed entirely resistant to the strictures of language, conversely, for its elucidation as painting, (if not, indeed, as art), it seemed and indeed was entirely dependent upon language for its legitimisation. 20. Gutting, French Philosophy in the Twentieth-Century, p. 251. Within this overarching ambition, what post-structuralism, or to marshal a related term deconstruction sought to collapse were epistemological structures that were premised on a fundamental or binary set of oppositions. As Rosalind Krauss suggests: ‘Whether it be the interior of the work of art as opposed to its context, or the interiority of a lived moment of experience as opposed to its repetition in memory or via written signs, what deconstruction was engaged in dismantling was the idea of the proper, both in the sense of the self-identical – as in “vision is what’s proper to the visual arts” – and in the sense of the clean or pure – as in “abstraction purifies painting of all those things, like narrative or sculptural space, that are not proper to it.” That nothing could be constituted as pure interiority or self-identity . . . was the argument mounted to scuttle the supposed autonomy of the aesthetic experience, or the possible purity of an artistic medium, or the presumed separateness of a given intellectual discipline.’ Rosalind Krauss, “A Voyage on the North Sea” Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition, London: Thames & Hudson, 1992, p. 32. 21. Hal Foster, ‘An Archival Impulse,’ October 110, autumn 2004, p. 4. 22. Ibid., p. 6.

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NOTES P. 33–35

23. Foucault, ‘On the Ways of Writing History,’ p. 289. In relation to this claim, Linda Hutcheon has noted that, for Foucault the ‘postmodern is selfconsciously art “within the archive” . . . (and that archive is both historical and literary).’ Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction, London: Routledge, 1998, p. 125. 24. J. William Rosenthal, Spectacles and Other Vision Aids: A History and Guide to Collecting, San Francisco, CA: Norman Publishing, 1996, p. 276. 25. As Arnaud Maillet notes: ‘Three words can be used as the lowest common denominator for all Claude mirrors: “convex tinted mirror.” Such is the minimal definition of this mysterious object – minimal, but not sufficient, for there is no fixed model for the Claude mirror but rather all sorts of variations with different types of reflections and tints, different sizes, forms, and degrees of convexity, all corresponding to different needs.’ Arnaud Maillet, The Claude Glass: Use and Meaning of the Black Mirror in Western Art, New York: Zone Books, 2004, p. 15. 26. The working operation of the Claude Glass was such that it would appear to be the case that it hybridised the appeal to both direct and indirect vision. As H. A. Sedgewick notes: ‘Direct perception is perception “without intermediary agents,” . . . it is looking directly at the scene itself rather than looking at a representation of it. Indirect perception refers to looking at a virtual scene through the intermediary of a representation.’ H. A. Sedgwick, ‘Relating Direct and Indirect Perception of Spatial Layout’ in Looking into Pictures: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Pictorial Space, Heiko Hecht et al. (eds), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003, pp. 61–62. 27. Interestingly, whilst the black or so-called Claude mirror functioned as a visual aid for artists, it has broader set of resonances that, as Maillet has noted, are respectively bound up with the practice of divination by mirrors. As such: ‘There are several variations of catoptromancy – divination by means of mirrors – all very similar in their methods but different in terms of the instrument used. In the register of the dark mirror, one can add palmomancy, this named because a mixture of soot and oil is applied by a magician to the palm of a prepubescent boy or virgin girl. He commands the child to fix his or her eyes on this mirror improvised with thick ink in the hollow of the hand. Aided by the magician’s incantations and fumigations, the child then sees all sorts of things and persons appear, which are not necessarily fantastic.’ Maillet, The Claude Glass: Use and Meaning of the Black Mirror in Western Art, p. 57. In the same text, Maillet marshals a related instance wherein the act of divination is again bound up with the act of gazing into a dark surface: ‘Paul S´edir summarizes the long session reported

139

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NOTES P. 35–37

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28.

29.

30.

31. 32.

33.

140

by Colonel Stephen Fraser during his journey to India: The black liquid, viscous as the tar collected from volcanic cracks in the ground, prepared at great length and with great care, was put into an earthenware vase. During the ceremony, young girls stirred the black substance suspended over the fire. Later they spread it out, allowing him to see again friends and family dear to his heart, as well as several other extraordinary scenes.’ Stephen Fraser, Twelve Years in India, cited by Paul S´edir, Les Miroirs magiques: Diviniation, clairvoyance, royaumes de l’astral, evocations, consecrations, L’Urim & le Thummim, miroir des Bhattahs, des arabes, de Nostradamus, de Swedenborg, de Cagliostro, etc., 3rd ed., Paris: Librairie G´enerale des Sciences Occultes, Bibliotheque Chacornac, 1907, p. 60, Ibid., p. 58. John Harvey, The Story of Black, London: Reaktion, 2013, pp. 25–26. Harvey also notes that it ‘was also in the classical world that black artefacts became common in daily use, that the colour black became a primary colour of art, and that blackness in the sense of death and the terrible found full recognition as part of life.’ Ibid., p. 39. ‘Keith Coventry in Conversation with Iwona Blazwick, The Whitechapel, London, 30 January 2008’ in Keith Coventry, Anaesthesia as Aesthetic, London: Haunch of Venison, 2008, p. 15. Ben Tufnell, ‘Black Paintings’ in Michael Bracewell et al., Keith Coventry: Vanishing Certainties Painting and Sculpture 1992–2009, London: Haunch of Venison, 2009, p. 105. Moreover, and as Tufnell notes: ‘They render Raoul Dufy’s Riviera landscapes – classical early twentieth-century images of the ‘good life’ of sun, sea and sand, privilege and luxury in the South of France – as congealed monochromes. In so doing they corrupt two distinct art historical traditions, enacting a double reversal, a double negation.’ Ibid, p. 104. Adil Jussawalla quoted in Zehra Jumabhoy, ‘F. N. Souza: Dark Visions,’ F. N. Souza, Black on Black, London: Grosvenor Gallery, 2013, p. 8. According to Rasheed Areen: ‘I think Souza’s black-on-black paintings were not only conceptually a radical shift in Souza’s own work but also a historically important development within British art. But, unfortunately, he could not maintain and develop this work further. This was partly because of the response he received when he exhibited this work in 1966, but also because of the institutional perception of the Indian artist which was not easy to defy or confront.’ Email to Conor Macklin, 13 June 2013, ibid., p. 9. F. N. Souza, ‘Cultural Imperialism,’ Patriot Magazine, 1984, ibid., p. 11.

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NOTES P. 37–38

34. ‘Art attack at Tate Britain: artists explain why they sabotage,’ The Guardian, Saturday 28 September 2013. Available at http://www.theguardian.com/ artanddesign/2013/sep/28/tate-britain-art-attack-artists-sabotage (accessed 28 December 2014). 35. In one sense the monochrome, regardless of the antipathy it tendentiously directed towards mimesis, becomes a representation of a monochrome as much as it actually is a monochrome. To conceive of the monochrome as a palimpsest in this context is to see and indeed sense any subsequent monochrome as both a recapitulation and an extension of the monochrome that preceded it. 36. Batchelor, ‘In bed with the monochrome,’ pp.157–58. To this we might add Craig Dworkin’s observation that Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning ‘thus reminds the viewer that there are no real absences, only replacements: of one layer by another, pli selon pli, precessions of opacities and cancellations of competing materials, each with their own revelations and supersessions in turn.’ Craig Dworkin, No Medium, London; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013, p. 42. 37. Whilst Jackson Pollock’s work dating from c. 1947 clearly initiated the conditions of possibility for painting to be positioned horizontally, at least within the prevailing conditions of its production, it took the art critic Leo Steinberg and the generation of artists that proceeded Pollock to make these concerns explicit. Writing in ‘The Flatbed Picture Plane,’ Steinberg, as the title infers, interprets the art of this period as being correlative to the flatbed printing press on which ‘a horizontal printing surface rests.’ Moreover, he selects the term ‘to describe the characteristic picture plane of the 1960s – a pictorial surface whose angulation with respect to the human posture is the precondition of its changed content.’ Leo Steinberg, Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1972, p. 82. Robert Ryman, an artist who we will consider in greater depth within the second part of this study has observed the following: ‘I was just thinking how painting is always vertical, always against the wall. For a good reason of course, because generally, they are pictures that need to be seen that way. I thought . . . since I’m not making pictures, a work could possibly not be vertical. It could be just the opposite.’ The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 339. It is interesting to note that in addition to Dadson, Ryman hasn’t remained with this methodology; it is as if it is solely a speculative, and

141

NOTES P. 38–41

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38. 39.

40. 41.

42.

43.

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hence ephemeral undertaking that remains unable to be fully assimilated or sustained and constitute either practice per se. Batchelor, ‘In bed with the monochrome,’ pp. 158–59. In one respect Sterne’s highly innovative inclusion of this monochromatic form carries a certain kinship with the tradition of so-called ‘mourning pages.’ According to Helen Smith and Louise Wilson ‘Another relevant tradition in early printing was the use of completely black pages (sometimes called ‘mourning pages’) in elegies commemorating the death of some important person. In John Taylor’s The Muses Mourning, a series of sonnets paying tribute to John Moray, the blank verso of every page is covered completely in black ink, providing a negative frame or mirror for the poem it faces.’ Helen Smith, Louise Wilson, Renaissance Paratexts, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 81. Batchelor, ‘In bed with the monochrome,’ pp.157–58. As several commentators about this incident have remarked, in an article published the previous day in The Mail on Sunday, Hirst had said that he didn’t mind what people thought of his work ‘so long as they get involved.’ See for example Maeve Walsh, ‘It was 5 years ago today: When Damien Hirst put a sheep in his tank.’ Available at The Independent (online) Sunday 25 April 1999, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/it-was5-years-ago-today-when-damien-hirst-put-a-sheep-in-his–tank-1089375 .html (accessed 28 December 2014). Anthony Everitt, ‘Painting Modernism Black,’ The Guardian May 16, 1994 and Felix Gmelin, Art Vandals, Stockholm: Riksutstallningar, 1996, p. 14. In one sense, the historical provenance for the representational ground of painting emerged during the first century within the context of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History. Within this encyclopedic volume, the Roman author recounted the story of the Corinthian maid who sought to create some tangible reminder of her lover by inscribing with charcoal the silhouette of his shadow that was thrown on the adjacent wall by the light cast by a lamp. As Frank-Thorsten Moll notes, in this sense ‘the origin of painting lies hidden in the blackness of a fixed shadow.’ Frank-Thorsten Moll, ‘The Silent Eloquence of the Color Black,’ in Gorner, Back to Black: Black in Current Painting, p. 176. Interestingly, following what Pliny the Elder decrees was the first stage of art, namely ‘tracing lines round the human shadow,’ artists then engaged with ‘monochromaton,’ that is the employment of single colours which, Pliny the Elder adds, ‘is still in use at

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45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50.

NOTES P. 41–44

44.

the present day.’ John Bostock and H. T. Riley, The Natural History of Pliny, pp. 228–29. Katherine Lenard, ‘Redaction,’ in Theorizing Visual Studies: Writing Through the Discipline, James Elkins & Kristi McGuire (eds), New York: Routledge, 2013, p. 227. Ibid., p. 228. Ibid., p. 227. Eleanor Heartney et al., After the Revolution: Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art, 2nd ed., London; New York: Prestel, 2013, p. 101. Robert Storr, ‘Paper Trail’ in Jenny Holzer: Redaction Paintings, New York: Cheim & Reid, 2006, p. 8. Ibid., pp. 8–9. Batchelor, ‘In bed with the monochrome,’ pp.157–58.

Chapter 3 Complicating Presence, Reenacting History 1. According to Stephanie Rosenthal, between 1951 to 1953 Rauschenberg created in total 24 black monochrome paintings, although as she notes, not all are extant today. Stephanie Rosenthal, Black Paintings, Munich: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2006, p. 25. 2. Joseph Albers, ‘Nothing Definite,’ Time, January 31, 1949, p. 39. 3. Walter Hopps, Robert Rauschenberg: The Early 1950s, Houston, Texas: Houston Fine Art Press, 1991, p. 16. 4. As Mary Lyn Kotz notes, the artist ‘felt that Albers singled him out for disapproval, much as his own father had – “No matter how hard I tried, he would look at my work and say, ‘I don’t want to know this!”’ Mary Lyn Kotz, Rauschenberg/Art and Life, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990, p. 66. 5. Kotz in Rosenthal, Black Paintings, p. 32. 6. John Gruen, ‘Robert Rauschenberg: An Audience of One,’ Art News 76, no. 2, February 1977, p. 46, in Branden W. Joseph, Random Order: Robert Rauschenberg and the Neo-Avant-Garde, Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2003, p. 316. This withdrawal of the authorial gesture and, by extension the artist’s ego is neatly summed up by John Cage’s observation that the white canvases were ‘landing strips for dust motes, light and shadow.’ Carolyn Lancher, Robert Rauschenberg, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2009, p. 6. 7. In an essay entitled ‘Convention and Innovation’ Greenberg wrote: ‘The first “recovered objects” that [Duchamp] mounted, the Bicycle Wheel and 143

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8.

9. 10. 11.

12.

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the Bottle Rack of 1913, tell us that he didn’t know . . . what Picasso’s first collage-constructions were about. It was one thing to have your fun with long settled-in conventions (though even that was not so easy when it came to the essential conventions of illusion); it was another thing to “play with more recently established ones, like the shuffled planes of Cubism.” Duchamp doesn’t seem to have had enough taste to cope here.’ Clement Greenberg, ‘Convention and Innovation’ (1976) first published as ‘Seminar Six’ in Arts Magazine vol. 50, no. 10, June 1976, reproduced in Clement Greenberg, Homemade Esthetics; Observations on Art and Taste, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 55. As Hopps notes: ‘From the current study, one can conclude that Rauschenberg made five successive types of predominantly black paintings along with the set of White Paintings.’ Hopps, Robert Rauschenberg: The Early 1950s, p. 63. It is perhaps worth noting that the exact provenance of at least some the paintings Rauschenberg made at this time remains uncertain. According to Hopps, this uncertainty ‘in the dating of Rauschenberg’s paintings in this period; many citations in previous catalogues and texts prove incorrect. The confusion is caused by the lack of records, the loss of art, and the unknown ownership or whereabouts of many of the paintings.’ Ibid., pp. 62–63. Ibid., p. 64. Ibid., p. 67. As Kotz notes within what was subsequently described as ‘The Event,’ ‘Four panels of Rauschenberg’s White Painting were suspended from the ceiling in the form of a cross, and used as screens for the projection of slides, a flickering eight-millimeter film, and as background for action.’ Kotz, Rauschenberg/Art and Life, p. 76. Contrary to Kotz’s claims however, Hopps notes that ‘a general notion still persists that some of the white panels were suspended at an angle above the audience and used as screens for film and slide projections. Eyewitness accounts on this subject vary, but Rauschenberg states that projections on his White Paintings were never intended and did not happen.’ Hopps, Robert Rauschenberg: The Early 1950s, p. 66. According to Joseph: ‘Rauschenberg’s early matte black triptych without the addition of collage is telling in that he apparently considered it a failure – no doubt because the black paint read as pigment (whereas white signified as its absence, i.e., as blank canvas) and hence restored the representational function of the painting. Despite its lack of figurative representation, the matte black coloration took on more clearly the function of an image. Emphasising materiality through collage (as Rauschenberg had done in

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14. 15.

16. 17. 18.

19.

Mother of God) was one means of opposing the transcendent status of the image.’ Joseph, Random Order: Robert Rauschenberg and the Neo-Avant-Garde, p. 315. Rauschenberg quoted in Dorothy Seckler, ‘The Artist Speaks: Robert Rauschenberg,’ Art in America 54, no. 3, May-June 1966, p. 76. Whilst Rauschenberg was reluctant to have his black monochrome paintings framed within a set of terms that conferred a series of explicit meanings onto them, as Katy Siegel notes, Frank Stella, who had also made what ostensibly were a series of black monochromes, arguably was: ‘While Rauschenberg was dismayed by the association of his Black Paintings of the early 1950s with nihilism, Frank Stella courted such readings of his work later in the same decade. He referred to his black and white striped paintings (made with black paint on bare canvas) not as paintings in black and white, but as Black paintings. The titles, which the young artist thought up with his friend Hollis Frampton, referenced mostly black housing projects in New York, as well as suicidal artists, an insane asylum, and various aspects of Nazism, such as concentration camps.’ Katy Siegel, Since ’45: America and the Making of Contemporary Art, London: Reaktion Books, 2011, p. 59. Seckler, ‘The Artist Speaks: Robert Rauschenberg,’ p. 76. Hopps, Robert Rauschenberg: The Early 1950s, p. 13. As Hopps notes: ‘Historically, the term and the concept of imagism arose in America’s literary vanguard around 1914, explicitly with the poets H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Amy Lowell. Their sense of the evocative power in using vivid, specific, even bizarre descriptive images beyond that thought appropriate or decorous in the more usual metaphor paralleled (and perhaps preceded) the development of aligned impulses in Surrealist art in Europe.’ Ibid., pp. 13–14. Rauschenberg quoted in Billy Kluver, On Record: 11 Artists 1963, New York: Experiments in Art and Technology, 1981, p. 42. Johanna Drucker, The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art 1909–1923, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994, p. 237. Clement Greenberg, ‘Sculpture in our Time,’ (1958) in Clement Greenberg, The Collected Essays and Criticism, John O’ Brian (ed.), vol. 2, Arrogant Purpose, 1945–1949. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986, p. 60. K. Van Scepen, ‘From the Form of Spirit to the Spirit of Form,’ in James Elkins, Re-Enchantment, London: Taylor & Francis, 2009, p. 48. Van Scepen here is writing in reference to Johanna Drucker’s own determination of Greenberg’s ideas. Accordingly: ‘What she has to say about the theological implications of Fried’s criticism, however, is only that he “transformed”

NOTES P. 46–48

13.

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145

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NOTES P. 48–50

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20.

21.

22. 23.

24. 25. 26.

27.

28. 29.

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Greenberg’s formalist prescriptions into an explicit theology of presence, thus directly articulating an implied connection between metaphysics and representation . . . In other words, Fried finally flushes out the metaphysical implications of the formalist method that have been clandestinely operative all along.’ Ibid. According to Helen Molesworth, the ‘black paintings mark the canvas with the body in the basest way.’ See Helen Molesworth, ‘Before Bed,’ in Robert Rauschenberg, Branden W. Joseph (ed.), Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2002, p. 83. Clement Greenberg, ‘Recentness of Sculpture,’ (1967) in Greenberg, The Collected Essays, vol. 4, Modernism With a Vengeance, 1957–1969, p. 251. Within the same passage of the text, Greenberg also levels the same accusation at the monochrome paintings of Sally Hazlett, Yves Klein and Ad Reinhardt. Ibid. Ibid., p. 254. Ibid., p. 251. ‘A monochromatic flatness that could be seen as limited in extension and different from a wall henceforth automatically declared itself to be a picture, to be art.’ Ibid. Michael Bracewell, ‘Social Works,’ Frieze 154, April 2013, p. 124. Lilly Wei, ‘Essay,’ Radical Painting, Williamstown, Massachusetts: Williams College Museum of Art, 1984, p. 12. ‘Labels such as “aniconic,” “pure,” “monochromatic,” and “fundamental,” have been adopted and subsequently discarded.’ Nancy Spector, ‘Student Statements, Preface,’ in Ibid., p. 19. Wei, ‘Essay,’ ibid., p. 12. For an example of Greenberg’s discussion of the optical, see ‘Modernist Painting’ in Greenberg, The Collected Essays, vol. 4, Modernism With a Vengeance, 1957–1969, pp. 85–93. Brigitte Baumstark, ‘Colour Space,’ in Jochen Poetter G¨unter Umberg: Body of Painting, Cologne: Museum Ludwig, 2000, p. 73. Baumstark describes Umberg’s process as follows: ‘Using a smooth and even ground of aluminium or wood, he applies the paint in numerous layers. The binder and the actual colouring substance, the pigment, are put on separately. First the artist sprays the panel with dammar resin and then works loose, fine-grained pigment into the wet sticky surface, applied crosswise with a wide brush, parallel to the edge of the painting. This is followed by a layer of dammar and then another layer of pigment. This process results in a volume of up to 100 layers of paint.’ Ibid., p. 73. Moreover, as Baumstark notes, the ‘tone is produced from a mixture of the pigments ivory black and vine black. The tiniest amounts of green, blue or red admixtures can be added to create a colour value that “aspires toward black.”’ Ibid., p. 74.

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NOTES P. 51–52

30. James Elkins, Master Narratives and their Discontents, London: Routledge, 2005, pp. 80–81. 31. Megan R. Luke in Megan R. Luke and Harry Cooper, Frank Stella 1958, New Haven, Connecticut and London: Yale University Press, 2006, p. 4. According to Luke, whilst ‘many critics consider his work a radical break with abstract expressionism, Stella himself insisted that his practice extended from it, self-consciously revisiting certain of its fundamental principles – gestural attack, allover composition, large-scale – in order to critique them. He considered this critical reevaluation of abstract expressionism necessary, even redemptive, given the numerous painters working in the 1950s who routinely copied the original “immediacy” of painters like Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, thereby rendering what was once radical “mannered” or “academic.”’ Ibid, p. 11. 32. Bruce Glaser, ‘Questions to Stella and Judd,’ in Minimal Art A Critical Anthology, Gregory Battcock (ed.), London: Studio Vista, 1969, p. 158. Although Stella himself, to a certain extent worked to shore up the antiillusionistic reading of the black paintings, he nevertheless did not entirely rule out the conditions of possibility for their measured austerity, an austerity which gave credence to their objectness, to be qualified. Speaking in 1966, the artist made the following observation: ‘When it’s up on the wall, it seemed to us [Stella and Walter Darby Barnard], rather than become an object . . . it actually emphasized more of the surface quality of it . . . When you look at the painting – and this is the only way I like my paintings to be looked at, really dead-on, because they’re conventional works of art in that sense, dead-on (I don’t like angled views, the wide-angle lens shot) – when you see the painting the way you’re supposed to see it . . . that little bit of depth just gives you almost a shadow or some kind of breathing around the edge that gives you all of the surface. You don’t get so much of a sense of the thing hanging on the wall.’ Luke & Cooper, Frank Stella 1958, p. 5. 33. Whilst Stella attempted to steer being away from language in his paintings at that particular time, this should not be read as necessarily implying that it equated to a desire on the part of the artist to attain a state of ‘pure’ or sheer visuality. Whilst this, admittedly, was a central goal for a number of artists working in the US during the early 1960s, Stella’s oeuvre at that time bore too many affinities with the literalist’s ‘phenomenal object’ to become fully conjoined with either Fried’s or Greenberg’s paradigm of opticality. 34. ‘Between names and reality there lies an abyss, and he who ventures to cross it plunges into the void.’ Octavio Paz, Convergences, Helen Lane (trans.), London: Bloomsbury, 1990, p. 136.

147

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35. G¨unter Umberg & Jan Thorn-Prikker, ‘Black Sun: A Conversation About the Art of Painting a Black Picture,’ in Poetter, G¨unter Umberg: Body of Painting, p. 94. 36. According to Goethe, with black the eye ‘is abandoned to itself; it retires into itself. That stimulating and grateful contact is wanting by means of which it is connected with the external world, and becomes part of a whole.’ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Farbenlehre: Theoretische Schriften (T¨ubingen, 1953) pp. 174ff; translated as Goethe’s Colour Theory, Herb Aach (trans. and ed.) London, 1971, p. 78, reproduced in Rosenthal, Black Paintings, p. 15. 37. Baumstark, ‘Colour Space,’ in Poetter, G¨unter Umberg: Body of Painting, p. 77. Jochen Poetter, echoing Fredrich Schiller’s assertion that darkness, by the very fact that it works to conceal the visible world gives free reign to the imagination, makes the following observation with regard to Umberg’s paintings: ‘The panels absorb the light so consummately that the observer’s gaze veritably drowns in their surface – night falls for our eyes, blotting out our vision. Yet even the sightlessness of the blind is merely “physically” black. The lack of eyesight is no barrier to inner images. Confronted by these panels, it may be that individuals with normal vision encounter a similar experience.’ Jochen Poetter, “‘An Unapproachable Beauty.” Painting between Attraction and Renunciation,’ Ibid., p. 104. 38. G¨unter Umberg, “‘Metaphysics is dead.” Materials from two encounters between Richard Erman and G¨unter Umberg on October 29, 1988 and June 11, 1989,’ in G¨unter Umberg, Hannelore Kersting (ed.), Cologne, 1989, p. 63 in Ibid., p. 106. According to Poetter: ‘We find ourselves inside a seductively associative realm that challenges us to come even closer. Our gaze drifts across the soft, shimmering black skin beneath which life appears to pulse. Our whole bodies are sucked in by the infinite depth: a type of immersion in a picture that is completely distinct from the illusionist perspectivism of traditional panel painting. Ibid. 39. ‘Thus, a multitude of different interrelationships between picture and observer are created, united with continuously different formats which nevertheless never existed beyond the human dimension of an outstretched arm, this being always related to the dimensions of the observer.’ Richard Hoppe-Sailer, ‘G¨unter Umberg Painting,’ Artefactum, vol. 8, pt. 38, 1991, p. 8. 40. Laura L. Marks, ‘Video Haptics and Erotics,’ Screen 39, 4, Winter 1998, p. 332. 41. Jennifer Fisher, ‘Relational Sense: Towards A Haptic Aesthetics,’ Parachute, vol. 87, July-September 1997, p. 6.

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NOTES P. 54–59

42. Ibid. 43. W D. Ross (trans.), The Works of Aristotle, vol. 3, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931, p. 2. 44. Ibid., p. 11. 45. Fisher, ‘Relational Sense Towards A Haptic Aesthetics,’ p. 6. 46. Ibid. 47. Michael Bracewell, ‘There Was a Big Hole in the Celling. Keith Coventry in conversation with Michael Bracewell,’ Keith Coventry, Deontological Pictures, London: Peer & Ridinghouse, 2012, p. 32. 48. Sol LeWitt, ‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,’ Artforum 5, no. 10, June 1967, p. 79, reproduced in Kristin Stiles and Peter Selz (eds), Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, University of California Press, 1996, p. 822. 49. Bracewell, ‘There Was a Big Hole in the Celling. Keith Coventry in conversation with Michael Bracewell,’ p. 34. 50. In fact, as Howard Singerman notes, the photographs based on Weston’s photographs of his son Neil that were taken in 1925 in fact were from a gallery poster. Howard Singerman, Art History, After Sherrie Levine, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012, p. 14. 51. Johanna Burton, ‘Sherrie Levine: Beside Herself,’ in Johanna Burton and Elisabeth Sussman, Sherrie Levine: Mayhem, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art; New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2012, p. 27. As Singerman notes, it is perhaps for this reason that Levine has very rarely made works based on particular paintings: ‘But while she has made photographs after paintings by Degas, Monet, and Schiele, sculptures after paintings by Man Ray and Duchamp, and watercolours after paintings by Mondrian, Mir´o, and a number of other artists, she has made only a handful of paintings after paintings and their proper names.’ Singerman, Art History, After Sherrie Levine, p. 129. 52. Hal Foster, ‘Signs Taken for Wonders,’ Art in America 74, no. 6, June 1986, p. 82. 53. “Jeanne Siegel”, ‘The Anxiety of Influence- Head On. A Conversation Between Jeanne Siegel and Sherrie Levine,’ Bernard Burgi (ed.), Sherrie Levine, Zurich: Kunsthalle, 1991, p. 21. 54. Sherrie Levine quoted in Paul Taylor, ‘Sherrie Levine Plays with Paul Taylor,’ Flash Art 135, Summer 1987, p. 58. 55. Burton, ‘Sherrie Levine: Beside Herself,’ p. 27. 56. Sherrie Levine quoted in Yves-Alain Bois, ‘Painting: The Task of Mourning,’ Painting as Model, Cambridge, MA: 1993, p. 229. This essay first

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NOTES P. 59–61

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57.

58.

59. 60.

61.

62.

63.

64. 65.

150

appeared in the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition Endgame: Reference and Simulation in Recent Painting and Sculpture which was held at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art in the Autumn of 1986. Alexander Rodchenko, from the manuscript ‘Working with Maiakovsky’ (1939), quoted in From Painting to Design: Russian Constructivist Art of the Twenties, Cologne: Galerie Gmurzynska, 1981, p. 191, reproduced in Bois, Painting as Model, p. 238. Nikolai Tarabukin, ‘From the Easel to Machine,’ (Ot mol’berta k mashine) Moscow, 1923, ch. 1–12, Christina Lodder, reproduced in Francis Frascina, and Charles Harrison (eds), Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology, London: Harper & Row Ltd, 1982, p. 135. Ibid., p. 139. Ad Reinhardt, quoted in Thomas Kellein, Ad Reinhardt: Schriften und Gesprache, Munich, 1984, p. 208, reproduced in Rosenthal, Black Paintings, p. 35. Ad Reinhardt, ‘On the Black Paintings,’ (1963), statement made to accompany the Museum of Modern Art’s purchase of one of the artist’s black paintings, reproduced in Barbara Rose, Art as Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt, Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1991, p. 85. In 1950, 28 artists, 14 of whom had appeared in Leen’s photograph composed an open letter to the director of the Metropolitan Museum’s expressing their dismay at the institution’s seeming recalcitrance to promote so-called ‘advanced art.’ Ad Reinhardt, ‘An Interview with Ad Reinhardt,’ originally published in Art International (Lugano), Winter 1966–1967, reproduced in Rose, Art as Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt, p. 13. This attempt to distance himself from Pollock specifically and the Abstract Expressionists more generally was also evident in the following statement made by the artist, again in 1966: ‘Even though socially I was extremely friendly with people like Clyff Still and Rothko and Motherwell and others, I was, I guess, a little uncomfortable with the mixture of both abstraction and expressionism.’ Ad Reinhardt, ‘Monologue,’ originally from the transcript of an interview with Mary Fuller, taped April 27, 1967 and subsequently published in Artforum in October 1970, ibid., p. 23. Ibid., p. 28. Ad Reinhardt, ‘Autointerview’ from Art News, March 1965, ibid., p. 11. The New York paint manufacturer Leonard Bocour supplied paints for a

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67. 68. 69.

70.

71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80.

number of the New York-based artists, including Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler. Ad Reinhardt, ‘Black as Symbol and Concept’ (1967), Rose, Art as Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt, p. 87. Indeed, at one point within this text that originally formed part of the artist’s contribution to a seminar on the concept of black, Reinhardt sought recourse to the ideas of Hokusai: ‘There is a black which is old and a black which is fresh. Lustrous black and dull black, black in sunlight and black in shadow. For the old black one must use an admixture of blue, for the dull black an admixture of white; for the lustrous black, gum must be added. Black in sunlight must have gray reflections.’ Ibid., p. 86. Ad Reinhardt, ‘An Interview with Ad Reinhardt,’ Ibid., p. 12. Ad Reinhardt, ‘On Negation,’ ibid., pp. 102–103. Ad Reinhardt, ‘Abstract Art Refuses, in the catalogue for Contemporary American Painting exhibition, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1952, Ibid., pp. 50–51. Written two years later and similar in import to Reinhardt’s negatory approach was John Cage’s riposte to the bemusement Rauschenberg’s White Paintings had elicited during their exhibition the previous year at the Stable Gallery in New York. Within it Cage wrote an inventory-like column, addressed ‘To Whom,’ and of what, listed what we can presume within the paintings themselves, there was nothing of. To this end, the list included ‘No subject . . . No image . . . No message . . . No art . . . ’, See ‘[Robert Rauschenberg] John Cage,’ in Richard Kostelanetz (ed.), John Cage: An Anthology, New York: De Capo Press, Inc.: 1991, p. 111. Ad Reinhardt, ‘Twelve Rules for a New Academy,’ first published in Art News (New York), May 1957, Rose, Art as Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt, pp. 205–206. Ad Reinhardt, ‘Oneness,’ Ibid., p. 106. Ibid. Ad Reinhardt, ‘Black,’ Ibid., p. 101. ‘Editor’s Note,’ Ibid., p. 82. Nicolas of Cusa, quoted in Ad Reinhardt ‘[Five Stages of Reinhardt’s Timeless Stylistic Art-Historical Cycle],’ Ibid., p. 10. Ad Reinhardt, ‘Dark,’ Ibid., p. 91. Ad Reinhardt,’Black,’ Ibid., p. 97. Ad Reinhardt, ‘[Notes on the Black Paintings],’ Ibid., p.104. Ad Reinhardt, ‘Imageless Icons,’ Ibid., p. 109. McEvilley, ‘Seeking the Primal Through Paint: The Monochrome Icon,’ pp. 53–54.

NOTES P. 61–64

66.

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151

NOTES P. 64–71

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81. Tarabukin in Frascina and Harrison, Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology, p. 138. 82. Andy Warhol, ‘Interview with Gene Swenson,’ (1963). Originally published as ‘What is Pop Art? Interviews with Eight Painters (Part 1),’ Art News, New York, November 1963, reproduced in Harrison and Wood, Art in Theory 1900–2000, p. 747. 83. Scott Rothkopf, ‘Modern Pictures,’ in Color, Power & Style, 2005, p. 66. 84. Ibid. Rothkopf, writing in one of the essays for the exhibition that as published on the occasion of Guyton’s solo show at the Whitney Museum in 2013 notes that when ‘Guyton’s drawings were first shown, critics tended to discuss them as comments on modernism, since many of the artworks they pictured ranged broadly from Constructivist sculpture and School of Paris painting to Tenth Street hokum and 1960s hardedged geometries.’ Scott Rothkopf, ‘Operating System,’ Scott Rothkopf, Wade Guyton, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013, p. 19. Untitled, a drawing from 2004 and made using an Epson DURABrite inkjet superimposes a series of red and green vertical stripes over a colour plate that reproduces Frank Stella’s Agbatana III (1968). Whilst there are sections to this work wherein each artists’ respective endeavors can be clearly determined, the central section where the two layers overlap create a strange, visual anomaly wherein whilst the image of Stella’s painting is partially obscured, the vertical printed lines become partially distorted due to the ink not having been able to fully key itself into the colour plate. 85. Kirsty Bell, ‘Wade Guyton,’ Frieze 93, September 2005, p. 121. 86. Rothkopf, Wade Guyton, p. 31. According to Guyton: ‘I didn’t learn from reading about Gabo . . . I learned from Jeff Wall. That work is clearly more important to me than any abstract painting.’ Guyton in conversation with Scott Rothkopf, New York, September 2004, Ibid, p. 21.

Chapter 4 Turner, Wheeler and Rauschenberg: Materialising Light 1. A. J. Finberg, The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961, p. 241. 2. Ibid. 3. Indeed, the apposite nature of Hazlitt’s observations, given such an identification, arguably extend to another comment he made wherein he had also noted that Turner’s paintings were ‘representations not so properly of the objects of nature as of the medium through which they are seen.’ Ibid., p. 242. 152

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NOTES P. 72–74

4. Sam Smiles, J. M. W. Turner: The Making of a Modern Artist, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007, p. 4. This is not to say that Turner did not have his detractors. As Smiles notes, in opposition to the likes of Dewhurst, Hind and La Sizeranne during the first decades of the twentieth century were ‘those accounts that question the ultimate validity of Turner’s artistic project, most obviously those written by Armstrong, Meier-Graefe, Finberg and Fry. For all four, Turner’s art is inauthentic or superficial in so far as his execution attempts to overcome his failure to make paintings properly expressive.’ Ibid., p. 115. 5. With regard to how Turner sought recourse to an admixture of grey, McEvilley notes the following: ‘There is a subtle and interesting polychromy in these paintings, but it is a vestigial polychromy, a mere remnant of the separation that once existed on the artist’s palette; it is as if the artist had begun to mix the colors back to neutral grey and had stopped just short of this, while streaks and smears of differentiated hues could still be seen.’ McEvilley, ‘Seeking the Primal Through Paint: The Monochrome Icon,’ pp. 49–50. 6. Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Harold Beaver (ed.), London: Penguin Books, 1985, p. 103. As Andrew Delbanco notes, the indistinct sea scene that Melville describes towards the beginning of the novel betrays the fact that the author would have been suitably versed within the seascapes of various artists, including both Canaletto and Claude Lorrain. However, he ‘was particularly drawn to those of J. M. W. Turner, in which he saw intimations of what, in Moby-Dick, he was to call the “howling infinite.”’ Andrew Delbanco, Melville: His World and Work, London: Picador, 2006, p. 122. 7. McEvilley, ‘Seeking the Primal Through Paint: The Monochrome Icon,’ p. 49. 8. James A. W. Heffernen, ‘Speaking for Pictures: Language and Abstract Art,’ in Writing and Seeing: Essays on Word and Image, Rui Carvalho Homem and Maria de Fatima Lambert (eds), Amsterdam; New York; Berlin: Rodopi, 2005, p. 27. 9. Gage, Colour and Culture: Practice and Meaning From Antiquity to Abstraction, p. 203. 10. Gerald Finley, ‘Pigment into Light: Turner, and Goethe’s “Theory of Colours,”’ in Frederick Burwick & J¨urgen Klein (eds), The Romantic Imagination: Literature and Art in England and Germany, Amsterdam; Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1996, p. 361. Notwithstanding his proclivity to lapse into obfuscation, in a lecture on colour in painting he delivered in 1818 the artist declared that in effect the two were mutually inclusive: ‘Light is therefore

153

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NOTES P. 74–77

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11. 12. 13. 14.

15.

16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

21.

154

colour, and shadow the privation of it by the removal of these rays of colour, or subduction of power, and these are to be found throughout nature in the ruling principles of diurnal variations.’ ‘Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) on Colour,’ in Harrison et al., Art in Theory 1815–1900: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, p. 112. Gage, Colour and Culture: Practice and Meaning From Antiquity to Abstraction, p. 201. Gerald Finley, Angel in the Sun: Turner’s Vision of History, Montreal: McGillQueen’s University Press, 1999, p. 201. Ibid., p. 202. Rolf G. Kuehni, Andreas Schwartz, Color Ordered: A Survey of Color Systems from Antiquity to the Present, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 128. As Gage has noted: ‘Newton’s theory – which denied that there was any specifically ‘primary’ set of hues, by arguing that all the rays of refracted light were ‘primary’, ‘homogeneal’ or ‘simple’ and that some, such as green, violet and even yellow, could be manifested in either a simple or a compound form – might have seemed to fly in the face of any technological experience; yet for many years, and every European country, the Opticks or popular versions of it became part of the standard equipment of the painter.’ Gage, Colour and Culture: Practice and Meaning From Antiquity to Abstraction, p. 168. David Seamon and Arthur Zajonc (eds), Goethe’s Way of Science: A Phenomenology of Nature, New York: State University of New York Press, 1998, p. xiii. Finley, ‘Pigment into Light: Turner, and Goethe’s ‘Theory of Colours,’ p. 358. Gage, Colour and Culture: Practice and Meaning From Antiquity to Abstraction, p. 203. Finley, Angel in the Sun: Turner’s Vision of History, p. 202 Gage, Colour and Culture: Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction, p. 204. Ibid. Referring to the artist’s own annotated copy of Eastlake’s translation, Finley makes the following observation: ‘The marginalia do not clearly indicate a preference for the principle, derived from Newton, that colour is the product of light, nor support for Goethe’s belief that colour results from the mixture of darkness and light. Still, there is a hint that Turner believed light to be the prime, active principle in nature and art.’ Finley, ‘Pigment into Light: Turner, and Goethe’s “Theory of Colours,”’ p. 364. ‘But rules of light and shadow, however enforced by practice, should have some general principle educed from, or countenanced [by] nature, the lap

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23.

24.

25. 26. 27. 28.

29.

of truth and natural phenomena.’‘Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775– 1851) on Colour,’ in Harrison et al., Art in Theory 1815–1900: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, p, 111. First recounted by Pliny the Elder, it was said that the art of painting stemmed from the actions of Butades’ daughter who drew her lover’s profile on the wall by tracing the silhouette of his cast shadow. Robin Clark, ‘Phenomenal: An Introduction,’ in Robin Clark (ed.), Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, London, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011, p. 20. According to Clark, the ‘cadre of Los Angeles artists who worked with light directly, or through the manipulation of transparent, translucent, and reflective materials, included those who engaged architecture to create immersive environments (Robert Irwin, Maria Nordman, Eric Orr, James Turrell, Doug Wheeler); those who used light as a primary material intensely but briefly (Michael Asher); those whose practice has been strongly rooted in performance, both their own and that of visitors who become participants in the work (Bruce Nauman); and those who dealt with light over a long term through the use of materials such as glass (Larry Bell, Mary Corse) or plastics, including polyester resin, plexiglass, and fiberglass (Peter Alexander, Ron Cooper, Craig Kauffman, John McCracken, Helen Pashgian, De Wain Valentine).’ Ibid., pp. 20; 23. As Rosalind Krauss notes: ‘Not only their work demonstrate a lack of differentiation but the constituent elements of the objects they made were drawn from the inventory of very ordinary stuffs: plywood panels, fluorescent tubes, fire bricks, ropes, and industrial felt.’ Rosalind Krauss, Passages in Modern Sculpture, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981, p. 198. Donald Judd, ‘Specific Objects’ (1965), in Harrison and Wood, Art in Theory 1900–2000 An Anthology of Changing Ideas, p. 824. Ibid. ‘Artists: Place in the Sun,’ Time, August 30, 1968, pp. 38–40 reproduced in Clark, Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, p. 31. Peter Wiebel, Gregor Jansen, ‘Light as a Medium of Art: Preface,’ in Peter Wiebel and Gregor Jansen (eds), Light Art from Artificial Light: Light as a Medium in 20 th and 21 st Century Art, London; Ostfildern: Hatze Cantz, 2006, p. 27. Oto Bihalji-Merin, ‘Time – Light – Motion,’ in Jean Leymarie et al., Abstract Art Since 1945, London: Thames and Hudson, 1971, p. 258. As a means of articulating this newly conferred identity onto light, Gyorgy Kepes, writing in the exhibition catalogue that accompanied the exhibition Light: Object and Image that was staged at the Whitney Museum of American Art in

NOTES P. 77–79

22.

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NOTES P. 79–81

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30. 31. 32.

33.

34.

35. 36.

156

New York in 1968 observed that ‘only by accepting light as artistically autonomous, as a world of art in itself, as plastic stuff to be molded, shaped, and formed as freely as the clay in which sculptors model could artists hope to find the looked-for correspondence between their new scale of experience and their artistic expression of it.’ Gyorgy Kepes, ‘Modulation of Light,’ in Gyorgy Kepes, Light as a Creative Medium, Cambridge: MA, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, 1965, p. 26, quoted in Robert M. Doty, Light: Object and Image, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1968, unpaginated. Peter Wiebel, ‘The Development of Light Art,’ in Light Art from Artificial Light: Light as a Medium in the Art of the 20th and 21st Centuries, pp. 90–91. Ibid., p. 95. Doty, Light: Object and Image, unpaginated. On one level the reiteration of the aesthetic was Doty’s way of chastening those artists, who, so seemingly embroiled in technology, become ‘a victim of [their] own tools and materials.’ Ibid. Although, as Clark notes, they all would subsequently abandon painting in favour of how art could be approached as a medium, Mary Corse, another artist who had initially been associated with the loose collective under consideration ‘has consistently linked her experiments with a variety of media back to painting.’ Clark, Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, p. 55. Douglas Wheeler quoted in Doty, Light: Object and Image, unpaginated. In the case of the work of Howard Jones, the conflation of light with painting was literalised. Neil L. Hart, writing in the Light: Object and Image exhibition catalogue makes the following observation: ‘The role of light as a life force was emphasized by adding actual light, that is, light bulbs, to the surface of the paintings.’ Neil L. Hart, ‘Howard Jones,’ ibid. Clark, Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, p. 29. Barely a year later James Turrell, whilst a graduate student at the University of California created Afrum (White), his first work solely consisting of light. With feint echoes of Malevich’s Black Square in respect of the fact that both works were positioned diagonally across and within the corner of a room, Afrum (White) took on a set of actual and three-dimensional characteristics through the formation of what ostensibly appeared to be an illuminated cube positioned approximately halfway between the floor and the ceiling. James Turrell in Lauson Cliff et al., Light Show, London: Hayward Publishing, 2013, p. 157. Indeed it is perhaps the intrinsic nature of these works that there is often a play between two seemingly oppositional forces or categories

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38.

39.

40.

including, for example illusion and reality and the realm of two as opposed to three-dimensions. As Clark notes: ‘Hidden behind the temporary walls in the corners are coloured fluorescent tubes. The intense glow from the tubes fills the interior space of the baffled corners and emanates into the gallery. Void and solid are inverted optically; the negative spaces of the cutouts appear solid while the walls themselves disappear.’ Clark, ‘Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, pp. 40; 44. Dawna Schuld, ‘Practically Nothing: Light, Space, and the Pragmatics of Phenomenology,’ Ibid., p. 114. Adopting a shared set of concerns was the artist Robert Irwin. In an interview with Michael Auping in 2007 he recounted that: ‘I painted and spackled walls. I plastered the walls because it looked and felt better. I adjusted lights, made new walls – pretty soon I was spending as much time on the building as I was the paintings.’ Irwin in conversation with Michael Auping, 29 January 2007 in Michael Auping, ‘Stealth Architecture: The Rooms of Light and Space,’ Ibid., p. 82. ‘The object-viewer relationship is defined, apart from the retinal experience undergone by the viewer, via the physical and corporeal agency of light. Viewers’ movements, their points of viewing and perspectives in a space are always potentially significant, forming a process of “embodying” space.’ Ibid. Kasimir Malevich, ‘Non-Objective Art and Suprematism,’ (1919) in Harrison and Wood, Art in Theory 1900–2000 A History of Changing Ideas, p. 293. In another passage in this same text, Malevich reiterates the emancipatory dimension of what he had enacted: ‘I have ripped through the blue lampshade of the constraints of colour. I have come out into white. Follow me, comrade aviators. Swim into the abyss. I have set up the semaphores of Suprematism . . . Swim in the white free abyss, infinity is before you.’ Ibid. Joseph, Random Order: Robert Rauschenberg and the Neo-Avant-Garde, p. 57. Joseph’s reference to a so-called ‘purge’ is from an exhibition review Hubert Crehan wrote in 1953: ‘They do make an extraneous impression: they are a climax to an esthetic that began to enchant a cult of painters some time ago – I mean the esthetic of the purge, with its apparatus of elimination, its system of denials, rejections and mortifications. In the drama of this cult the bare canvas has always been the spectral hero . . . Rauschenberg’s pair of albinos (one is made up of seven tall panels, the other of two wider panels), of course, are the image of these ascetic ideas reduced to their ultimate plastic reality. Their exhibition is a chef-d’oeuvre of [canvas] duck pressed to the point of not return.’ Hubert Crehan, ‘The See Change: Raw Duck,’ Art Digest 27, no. 20, 15 September 1953, p. 25.

NOTES P. 81–82

37.

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NOTES P. 82–84

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41. The original statement reads: ‘they are large white (1 white as 1 GOD) canvases organized and selected with the experience of time and presented with the innocence of a virgin. Dealing with the suspense, excitement and body of an organic silence, the restriction and freedom of absence, the plastic fullness of nothing, the point a circle begins and ends. They are a natural response to the current pressures of the faithless and a promoter of institutional optimism. It is completely irrelevant that I am making them – Today is their creator.’ Rauschenberg to Parsons, 18 October 1951, in Hopps, Robert Rauschenberg: The Early Years, p. 230. 42. According to Rosalind Krauss: ‘If the Renaissance had diagrammed the punctuality of [a] viewing point, it was modernism that insisted on it, underscored it, made the issue of the indivisible instant of seeing serve as a fundamental principle in the doctrine of aesthetic truth. Modernism was to absolutize this “now” to insist that painting exist within the indivisible present of the extremist possible perceptual intensity.’ Rosalind Krauss, The Optical Unconscious, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993, pp. 213–214. An example of this particular temporality that inflected, if not directly informed the criticism of Greenberg can be observed in: ‘On Looking at Picture: Review of Painting and Painters: How to Look at a Picture: From Giotto to Chagall by Lionel Venturi’ in Greenberg, The Collected Essays and Criticism. vol. 2, Arrogant Purpose, 1945–9, pp. 34–5. 43. Hopps, Robert Rauschenberg: The Early 1950s, p. 63. 44. In terms of the artwork’s critical reception, Hopps has noted that the ‘works were instantly controversial – loved by few, hated by many, and generally misunderstood. Not until a generation following Rauschenberg did their peaceful and contemplative nature begin to be appreciated. The creation of the White Paintings shocked the artistic community at Black Mountain, and word of mouth about the “scandal” spread to the New York artworld.’ Ibid., pp. 65–66. 45. Irving Sandler, The New York School: The Painters and Sculptors of the Fifties, New York: Harper and Row, 1978, p. 174. As Hal Foster notes, as well as this interpretation of the white paintings by Cage, Rauschenberg himself would always speak of them as ‘the white paintings that would pick up the shadows.’ Hal Foster et al., Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, London: Thames and Hudson, 2004, p. 370. 46. Notwithstanding the ostensible ‘content’ of the paintings that Malevich chose to exhibit for the 0.10 exhibition, the works were on one level foregrounded by their indexicality. Accordingly: ‘Thus, almost half a century

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NOTES P. 84

before Clement Greenberg, Malevich posited that the “zero” condition of painting in the culture of his time is that it is flat and delimited. From this critical reduction there stems Malevich’s emphasis on the textural quality of his surfaces, his attention to painterly facture, but also his predilection for the figure of the square, a form long conceived, as its Latin name attests, as the result of one of the simplest geometrical acts of delimitations (quandrum means both “square” and “frame”) . . . Malevich’s 1915 Black Cross, his Four Squares . . . and many other “noncompositions” presented at “0.10” are indexical paintings; that is, the division of the picture’s surface, the marks it received, are not determined by the artist’s “inner life” or mood (as was the case for Kandinsky’s abstract paintings), but by the logic of the “zero” – they refer directly to the material ground of the picture itself, which they map.’ Ibid., p. 132. 47. Rosalind Krauss, ‘Perpetual Inventory,’ in Joseph, Robert Rauschenberg, p. 127. 48. Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, p. 212. Outside of an aesthetic framework, the ‘trace’ houses a complex set of implications that call into question the foundations upon which Western metaphysics has been constructed. Broadly speaking, Jacques Derrida’s critique of presence has been partly undertaken through the differential operation of the trace. More specifically, he has aligned his own concerns with those of Levinas to the extent that his critique of ontology brought to light ‘the relationship to the illeity as to the alterity of a past that never was and can never be lived in the originary or modified form of presence.’ Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, Gayari Spivak (trans.), Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1976, p. 70. In addition, and according to Michael J. MacDonald: ‘The trace encapsulates the movement from ontology to grammatology in Derrida’s thought, and from Being to the beyond Being in Levinas. Both focus on its potential as a recourse for deconstructing the founding principles of phenomenology. More specifically, Levinas and Derrida employ the trace to conceptualise the disappearance of the Cogito into the field of difference.’ Michael J. MacDonald, “‘Jewgreek and Greekjew” The Concept of the Trace in Derrida and Levinas,’ Philosophy Today 35, fall 1991, p. 225. For a general exposition of how the trace is conceived within the framework of twentieth-century thought, see Irene E. Harvey, Derrida and the Economy of Difference, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), pp. 163–181. 49. Of course, this critical strategy should also be understood as the writer’s attempts to prise Pollock off of the interpretive framework of ‘opticality,’

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50. 51. 52.

53. 54.

the terms upon which both Greenberg and Fried had initially read Pollock’s work. Krauss, The Optical Unconscious, p. 259. Ibid. Ibid., p. 260. Within the context of modern painting, although Krauss cites Pollock as the historical locus for the emergence of the index, arguably a literal determination of the mark, separate from its pictorial role had arisen much earlier. For example in certain late canvases by C´ezanne, painting’s immaterial plane became breached by the introduction of opaque elements. Specifically, this became determined by the quality inherent within certain painting’s brushwork. Whilst to this end the liberating quality of the paint that Pollock quite literally flung onto the canvas was perceived as the actualisation of the artist’s psyche, the initial significance of the index within painting was conceived as its capacity to denote the founding principles of ‘authorship.’ According to Shiff: ‘During the nineteenth century, the problem of pictorial touch was complicated by increasing cultural investment in touch as the immediate mark and making (production) of authorial identity. To make a painting was to assert oneself as an independent author (with connotations of social liberation and political independence.)’ Richard Shiff, ‘C´ezanne’s Physicality: The Politics of Touch,’ in The Language of Art History, Salim Kemal and Ivan Gaskell (eds), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 135. Charles Sanders Peirce, Philosophic Writings of Peirce, Justus Buchler (ed.), New York: Dover Publications, 1955, p. 106. Foster et al., Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, p. 370.

Chapter 5 Lightening the Idealistic Load: The Dumb, the Imprecise and the Almost 1. Francis Colpitt, Minimal Art: The Critical Perspective, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993, p. 1. Standardised readings of Eleanore Mikus’s oeuvre still tend to conflate the work she began during the first half of the 1960s either with the formalist art criticism of Clement Greenberg or with Minimalism. To this end, according to one commentator writing in 1991, Mikus’s paintings during the first half of the 1960s ‘join Greenberg’s formalism with assemblage.’ Robert Hobbs, ‘Eleanore Mikus: Shadows of the Real,’ in Robert Hobbs and Judith Bernstock, Eleanore Mikus: Shadows of the Real, Seattle; London: University of Washington 160

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3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

8.

9. 10.

11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16.

NOTES P. 87–92

2.

Press, 1991, p. 25. More recently, a web article published by the auction house Christies in light of one of her works from this period being auctioned was titled ‘Eleanore Mikus: Memoirs of a Minimalist.’ Available at htttp://www.christies.com/features/eleanore-mikus-memoirs-of-aminimalist-1809–1.aspx (accessed 29 December 2014). Mikus’s practice was rooted within an artistic milieu that was marked by a prevailing set of tensions ‘between the modernist insistence on medium specificity and the negation of traditional medium-based categories.’ Alex Potts, ‘Tactility: The Interrogation of the Medium in Art of the 1960s,’ Art History, vol. 27, no. 2, April 2004, p. 286. Specifically, Mikus’s Tablet series arguably negotiated and sought to counter the strictures of what was ostensibly the dominant reductivist modus operandi within what, as the artist has claimed herself, was a ‘strongly-held male environment.’ Correspondence with the author, 2 June 2013. Hobbs, ‘Eleanore Mikus Shadows of the Real,’ p. 19. Correspondence with the author, 2 June 2013. Hobbs, ‘Eleanore Mikus Shadows of the Real,’ p. 16. Correspondence with the author, 2 June 2013. Judith Bernstock, ‘Eleanore Mikus: Minimal Works on Wood, Paper, and Cardboard,’ in Hobbs and Bernstock, Eleanore Mikus: Shadows of the Real, p. 32. Mikus was able to formally pursue her own interest in this area when in 1967 she gained an MA in Oriental art history from the University of Denver. The title of her thesis was ‘The Influence of Wang Wei on Southern Landscape Painters with Historical Background on the Technique and Philosophy of Chinese Painting.’ Hobbs, ‘Eleanore Mikus: Shadows of the Real,’ p. 15. Luis Camnitzer, ‘From Shell to Skin: Eleanore Mikus,’ Eleanore Mikus: From Shell to Skin, Drawing Papers 65, New York: The Drawing Center, 2006, p. 9. Correspondence with the author, 2 June 2013. Ibid. Bernstock, ‘Eleanore Mikus: Minimal Works on Wood, Paper, and Cardboard,’ p. 32. Hobbs, ‘Eleanore Mikus: Shadows of the Real,’ p. 19. Ibid., p. 15. Naomi Specter, Robert Ryman, Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1974, p. 9, in Suzanne Hudson, Used Paint, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009, pp. 174–175.

161

NOTES P. 93–95

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17. David Batchelor, ‘On Paintings and Pictures: An Interview with Robert Ryman,’ Frieze 10, May 1993, p. 43. Ryman’s own formulation of realism extends to encompass the artwork’s interaction with light: ‘The painting I make . . . has to do with using real light on real surfaces, rather than creating an internal illusion of light . . . In most paintings we think of light in terms of an illusion within the picture. In my painting light is used differently without any illusion. The light in the painting, so to speak, is accomplished by the different surfaces and how real light acts upon those surfaces.’ Ibid, p. 44. 18. Y˘ong-na Kim, 20 th Century Korean Art, London: Laurence King, 2005, p. 255. 19. Joan Kee, Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method, Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2013, pp. 112–113. 20. Ibid., p. 125. 21. Ibid., p. 126. 22. Another strategy Korean artists adopted at that time was to create works that appeared to be incomplete: As Kee points out: ‘If the goal was to make works that looked deliberately incomplete, it was so that a work could be read as something other than the unique product of a singular author, or even as something outside the bounds of style, the parameters according to which painting tended to be gauged in Korea and elsewhere.’ Ibid., p. 3. 23. Ibid., p. 137. 24. In Ryman’s case, several canvases were the direct result of a certain boustrophedon technique that is evident through the series of regularly applied horizontal bands of white painting that have been systematically applied onto a given support. As Yves-Alain Bois notes, ‘House painters adopt the boustrophedon sequencing that is common in Egyptian and other forms of writing, for that is the most economic way to cover a surface (this name derives from a Greek word meaning “ox-turning” and refers to the course of a plow in successive furrows).’ Yves-Alain Bois, ‘Ryman’s Lab,’ in Peter Fischer et al., Abstraction Gesture Ecriture, Zurich; Berlin; New York: Scalo, 1999, p. 117. 25. Kee, Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method, p. 134. 26. Y˘ong-na Kim, 20 th Century Korean Art, p. 256. Accordingly: ‘The connection that Monochrome artists drew between their art and the spiritual aspects of the east Asian philosophical paradigm, and the link that critics made to the indigenous nature of Korean art played important roles in the expansion of this art movement.’ Ibid., p. 258–59.

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NOTES P. 96–98

27. McEvilley, ‘Seeking the Primal Through Paint: The Monochrome Icon,’ pp. 53–54. 28. Blotkamp, ‘Introduction,’ in Basically White, p. 9. 29. Ibid. What makes this text pertinent for our purposes is the extent wherein it appears to oscillate between the two main impulses of the monochrome, namely the metaphysical and the material: ‘As some of them feel obliged to deny explicitly that white for them has a more than strictly neutral meaning, one may conclude that its “higher” meaning must still be very powerful, and one may wonder if anyone can possibly withdraw completely from a notion that is so universal as white’s cleanliness, purity and primordiality, with all its aesthetic and ethic implications: we are reminded of that every day, even by the commercials for soap powders on T.V.’ Ibid. 30. Interestingly, the parameters of ‘dumbness’ within Guyton’s practice extends to encompass the technology that he is working with: ‘I didn’t set out to make a computer painting, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that I’m using a computer. I think I was trying to solve a problem at the moment, which was how to make a mark, and there was whole new set of tools that opened up to me within the computer. When you go into Word or Photoshop, or even the interface between the software and the printer, there is a very specific language related to the production of text or images. And dumb categories of quality, economy, or draft.’ Donna De Salvo, ‘Interview,’ Rothkopf, Wade Guyton, p. 208. 31. David Batchelor in conversation with Clarrie Wallis in Richard Noble, Shiny Dirty, Birmingham: Ikon Gallery catalogue, 2004, unpaginated. 32. In one sense, to adopt such an approach is to align the work not with painting but with what, ostensibly, and historically at least, was perceived to be its antithesis: ‘In French there is an old expression, la patte, meaning the artist’s touch, his personal style, his ‘paw.’ I wanted to get away from la patte and all that retinal painting.’ See C. Tomkins, The Bride and the Bachelors: Five Masters of the Avant Garde, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965, p. 24. 33. ‘Spirit in the Machine,’ London Institute Magazine. Available at http:// www.natashakidd.com/wp-content/uploads/the-spirit-in-the-machinearticle-london-institute.pdf. (accessed 29 December 2014). According to Krauss, and with regard to the medium of sculpture, (although it remains true also for painting), the ‘revelation of process works to expose the means of representation; in formalist terms, it bares the device. It is the intentional, shocking construction of a surface, that will report not on “the secrets of sculpture,” but on the banalities of making.’ Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, p. 186.

163

NOTES P. 98–100

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34. Her first painting machines which were made during the time when she was a student at the Slade concealed the actual working mechanisms of the machine. ‘Spirit in the Machine,’ London Institute Magazine, Ibid. 35. Batchelor, ‘In bed with the monochrome,’ p. 153. Indeed, Batchelor says as much when he claims, in the following line ‘Or have one made.’ Ibid. Batchelor’s own practice, which encompasses a particular conflation of the readymade with the monochrome entails a process wherein the latter are products of happenstance. To this end the artist’s Found Monochromes are instances, or fugitive moments wherein a monochrome, or what appears to resemble, for all intents and purposes a monochrome, appears within the urban sprawl. 36. ‘A single uninterrupted plane of flat unmodulated colour spread evenly across a given surface – a monochrome appears to involve no composition, no drawing, no subtlety; and it requires no skill, and certainly no craft skill, to make one. Anyone who can paint a door can paint a monochrome. Or, as El Lissitzky put it in 1925: “Now the production of art has been simplified to such an extent that one can do no better than order one’s paintings by telephone from a house painter while one is lying in bed.”’ David Batchelor, ‘A bit of nothing,’ Tate Etc., Issue 16, Summer 2009. Available at http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/bitnothing (accessed 29 December 2014); 37. Batchelor, ‘In bed with the monochrome,’ p. 155. 38. ‘The monochrome may aspire to, or be represented as, merely a kind of labour, but at the same time it also remains something distinctly abstract, abstruse and exclusive. And its condition as a product of apparently dumb labour rather than dashing creativity is exactly the means by which it makes itself all the more exclusive as art. Ibid., p. 167. 39. Yasmina Reza, Art, Christopher Hampton (trans.), London: Faber and Faber, 1996, p. 3. 40. Aoife Rosenmeyer, ‘A Grammar of the Accidental,’ Frieze 153, March 2013, p. 169, 41. Vincent P´ecoil, ‘Natures Mortes Vivantes,’ in Steven Parrino, New York: Gagosian, 2007, p. 8. 42. Helen Little, writing in the entry for the artist in the exhibition catalogue that accompanied the Turner Prize in 2010 noted that the de la Cruz’s ‘engagement with paint is a physical one, and she considers the stretcher an extension of the body. As a result, her works often allude to or stand in for the human form, either through their evocative configurations, scale or

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44. 45. 46.

47. 48.

49.

subtle activation in the gallery.’ Helen Little, ‘Angela de la Cruz,’ in Helen Little and Katahrine Stout, Turner Prize 10, London: Tate Publishing, 2010, p. 12. McEvilley, The Monochrome Adventure: A Study in the Form and Content of Modern Painting, p. 5. Ibid., p. 4. Ibid., pp. 37–38. To this end, the imagination can be conceived as one analogue of this operation for the ‘canonical definition of the imagination . . . [is] the representation of a thing in its absence.’ Furthermore, ‘we take it to mean “while the thing is absent, is elsewhere.”’ Jean-Luc Nancy, The Birth to Presence, Brian Holmes et al. (trans.), California: Stanford University Press, 1993, p. 357. Emmanuel Levinas, The Levinas Reader, Sean Hand (ed.), Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989, p. 136. ‘Painting has in it a certain kind of divine power, so as not only to have the same effect as is observed of friendship, to make the absent seem present; but even to set before our eyes those that have been dead whole ages, to the great delight of the beholder, and admiration of the artist.’ Alberti, On Painting and Sculpture, p. 61. According to Levinas, the ‘perceived elements are not the object but are like its ‘old garments,’ spots of colour, chunks of marble or bronze. These elements do not serve as symbols, and in the absence of the object they do not force its presence, but by their presence insist on its absence. They occupy its place fully to mark its removal, as though the represented object died, were disincarnated in its own reflection.’ Levinas, The Levinas Reader, p. 136. Even in the work of those figures that would be considered to be operating within the field of poststructuralism, lack, when it is invoked, continues to be conflated with and compared against that which it is held to be in contradistinction to. For example, Jacques Derrida, by approximating the event of writing without seeing, draws this observation: ‘The extraordinary brings us back to the ordinary and the everyday, back to the experience of the day itself, to what always guides writing through the night, farther or no farther [plus loin] than the seeable or foreseeable. “Plus loin” can here mean either excess or lack.’ Jacques Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind: The Self Portrait and Other Ruins, Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, (trans.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995, p. 4. Within the psychological lexicon of Jacques Lacan, the root cause of Lack (manque) is the infant’s separation from

NOTES P. 100–101

43.

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NOTES P. 101–103

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50. 51. 52.

53.

54.

55. 56. 57.

58.

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the maternal body. The Cassell’s French Dictionary provides the following definition of the word manque: Want, lack, need; shortcoming, failure, defect; deficiency. Moreover, by being conceived as a nascent state, lack functions as a critical point of departure by which the subject attempts to nullify this void through the acting out of desire. According to Anika Lemaire: ‘In the movement whereby the child in one form or another translates his need he alienates it in the signifier and betrays its primary truth. The real object of lack, of need and of the instinct is lost for ever, cast into the unconscious. The subject is divided into two parts; his unconscious truth and the conscious language which partially reflects that truth. This is also the reason for man’s radical inability to find anything to satisfy him.’ Anika Lemaire, Jacques Lacan, David Macey (trans.), London; Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977, p. 163. Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, Laurence Scott (trans.), Louis A. Wagner, (ed.), Austin, Texas; London, 1979, p. 35. Ibid., p. 34. These included ‘with the help of enticements . . . through the use of a magical agent [and] . . . the spell on a person [being] broken.’ Ibid., pp. 53– 55. A. J. Greimas and J. Court´es, Semiotics and Language: An Analytical Dictionary, Larry Crist et al. (trans.), Bloomington: Bloomington University Press, 1982, p. 169. According to McEvilley, Klein’s spiritual development as an artist ‘can be divided, for the sake of convenience, into three phases: the Zen phase, the Rosicrucian phase, and the final “apotheosis” as Yves le Monochrome.’ McEvilley, The Monochrome Adventure: A Study in the Form and Content of Modern Painting, p. 51. Piero Manzoni, ‘Free Dimension’ (1960), in Harrison and Wood, Art in Theory 1900–2000, p. 723. McEvilley, The Monochrome Adventure: A Study in the Form and Content of Modern Painting, p. 101. Ibid., p. 48. As McEvilley notes: ‘According to his own notes, he made his first monochromes in 1947, though he did not at that time regard them as “paintings.”’ Ibid., p. 57. Ibid., p. 47. According to the chronology reproduced in Weitemeier, his first (private) show of his monochromes was in his ‘room’ and under ‘1947’ it states that he made his first monotype imprints using his hands and feet. Hannah Weitemeier, Yves Klein 1928–1962 International Klein Blue, Koln: Taschen, 1995, p. 90.

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NOTES P. 103–105

59. McEvilley, The Monochrome Adventure: A Study in the Form and Content of Modern Painting, p. 70. It was also in 1955 that Klein submitted a monochrome canvas, Expression de l’Univers de la Couleur Mine Orange, to the Salon des R´ealit´es Nouvelles at the Palais des Beaux-Arts de la ville de Paris. The Salon’s selection committee rejected the work, and suggested that the work could possibly be improved if Klein were to add some for of further embellishment to it, for example an additional colour or some form of linear design. Weitemeier, Yves Klein 1928–1962 International Klein Blue, 1995, p. 8. 60. ‘In my judgment two colours juxtaposed on one canvas compel the observer to see the spectacle of this juxtaposition of two colours, or of their perfect accord, but prevent him from entering into the sensitivity, the dominance, the purpose of the picture.’ Yves Klein, ‘The Evolution of Art towards the Immaterial, (1959), extract from transcript of lecture, 3 June 1959, the Sorbonne, Paris, trans., in Yves Klein, London: Gimpel Fils, 1973, reproduced in David Batchelor (ed.), Colour, London; Cambridge, MA: Whitechapel; MIT Press, 2008, p. 120. 61. ‘The true painter of the future will be, in effect, a mute poet who will not write anything but will express himself, without articulation and in silence, with an immense and limitless painting.’ Yves Klein, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Klaus Ottman (trans.), Putnam, CT: Spring Publications, 2007, p. 118. 62. McEvilley, The Monochrome Adventure: A Study in the Form and Content of Modern Painting, p. 71. 63. Klein, ‘My position in the battle between line and colour’ in Klein, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, p. 19. 64. Ralph Rugoff, ‘A Brief History of Invisible Art,’ in Copeland, Voids: A Retrospective, p. 375. 65. Klein, ‘Come with me into the void’ in Klein, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, p. 113. 66. Of course, and contrary to what each respective term denotes, these in themselves are not empty signifiers but rather carry a set of meanings and associations that are, in one sense borne out of their historical contingencies as much as their conceptual and artistic allegiances. For example, Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe in Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime has sought to determine the historical trajectory of blankness and how it is now manifest within a contemporary, technological milieu. See Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, ‘Blankness As a Signifier,’ in Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime, New York: Allworth Press, 1999, pp. 109–123.

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NOTES P. 106–107

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Chapter 6 The Evacuation of Imagery: Monochromacity and the Work of Nothing 1. Danto, The Madonna of the Future: Essays in a Pluralistic Art World, p. 277. It is perhaps significant that James’s story and Alphonse Allais’s Premi`ere communion de jeunes filles chlorotiques par un temps de neige or First Communion of Anaemic Young Girls In The Snow were published contemporaneously and, moreover, prior to Malevich’s completion of Suprematist Composition: White on White. 2. ‘Path-oriented like the mystics, Malevich saw his art as a way to escape the relativity of the everyday world, which it annihilates by a kind of sympathetic magic in which the representation is taken to control the thing represented: represent the world as blank and is voided.’ McEvilley, ‘Seeking the Primal Through Paint: The Monochrome Icon,’ p. 55. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid., p. 49 5. Robert Motherwell, ‘Black or White,’ in Soloman, Black and White, unpaginated. A similar sentiment is echoed in the art critic Harold Rosenberg’s assertion that ‘the American vanguard painter took to the white expanse of the canvas as Melville’s Ishmael took to the sea.’ Harold Rosenberg, ‘The American Action Painters,’ (1952) in David Shapiro and Cecile Shapiro (eds), Abstract Expressionism: A Critical Record, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 80. 6. To this end, what Malevich’s geometrical abstractions on one level denote is the fact that they were ‘closer to the absolute void than to the common-sense realm of particulars.’ McEvilley, The Monochrome Adventure: A Study in the Form and Content of Modern Painting, pp. 45–46. Moreover, and within what McEvilley terms is an ‘ontological unfolding,’ the teleology that pertained to the historical trajectory of the monochrome became understood within the following terms: ‘Obviously this should be an intermediate step between realistic representational painting (=the realm of particulars) and complete monochrome painting (=the ultimate void): that is, we have, at the lowest ontological level, the realm of particulars (=representational painting), a large step higher is the realm of the Pythagorean-Platonic Forms or principles which make up particulars and are, in comparison with them, eternal (=geometrical abstraction), and finally, at the apex of the ontological pyramid, the absolute beyond form (=pure monochrome).’ Ibid. 7. According to Mathieu Copeland: ‘The desire to work with nothing can manifest itself in many complementary ways and generates numerous approaches: pure voids, spaces left empty, ( . . . ) voids emerging from the

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9.

10. 11. 12.

13. 14. 15. 16.

NOTES P. 107–110

8.

desire to empty everything, voids resulting from the desire to add nothing, voids as signature, unfulfilled voids and conceptual voids, voids as refusal etc.’ Copeland, Voids: A Retrospective, p. 167. Stephen Knudsen, ‘Alfredo Jaar SCAD Museum of Art – Savannah, Georgia,’ ARTPULSE, no 10, Winter 2011/2012, p. 78. According to Abigail Solomon-Godeau: ‘Other references to contemporary artists (and filmmakers) are scattered through Jaar’s projects – for example, to Joseph Beuys, to Hans Haacke, to minimalists such as Donald Judd – sometimes such references are made in homage, sometimes as wry counterpoint.’ Abigail Solomon-Godeau, ‘Lament of the Images: Alfredo Jaar and the Ethics of Representation,’ Aperture 181, winter 2005, p. 39. Ibid., p. 36. Patricia C. Phillips, ‘The Aesthetics of Witnessing: A Conversation with Alfredo Jaar,’ Art Journal, vol. 64, no. 3, fall 2005, pp. 16–18. ‘The Rwandan genocide started on 6 April, 1994. It lasted one hundred days. A million lives were lost. Two million people were made exiles. Another two million were displaced within Rwanda. It took 17 weeks since the beginning of the genocide before Newsweek magazine dedicated a cover to the tragedy. I call this barbaric, criminal, racist indifference. The Rwanda Project 1994–2000 was born as a reaction to this media-crime. I created some 25 projects that were exercises in representation. Futile exercises born out of rage and sorrow.’ ‘Alfredo Jaar: interview by Luigi Fassi,’ KLAT, Winter 2009/2010, no. 1, pp. 79–80. Jeff Derksen and Neil Smith, ‘A Geography of the Difficult,’ in Alfredo Jaar, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, Milan: Macro, 2005, p. 64. Margaret Sundell, ‘Alfredo Jaar at Galerie Lelong’ Artforum, January 2003, p. 137. Gage, Colour and Culture: Practice and Meaning From Antiquity to Abstraction, p. 70. Phillips, ‘The Aesthetics of Witnessing: A Conversation with Alfredo Jaar,’ pp. 16–18. Beyond Sundell’s observation, what arguably unites Real Pictures with Lament of the Images is a shared intention to negate or circumvent the photographic image’s received function as a purported bearer of transparent or veridical content. This particular strategy is also evident within One Million Finnish Passports, a work the artist made in 1995 and as the title denotes, consisted of one million Finnish passports. Although the passports themselves had been systematically arranged and set out, the individual identities that pertained to each remained concealed and hidden from view. An additional barrier to this information was given by the fact that the

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NOTES P. 110–114

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17. 18.

19. 20.

21. 22. 23. 24.

25.

26. 27.

170

passports were placed behind a screen of bulletproof glass. Although on one level the piece sought to address Finland’s stringent immigration policy, One Million Finnish Passports entailed, as with the case of Real Pictures and Lament of the Images, tendentiously placing some form of barrier between the viewer and the actual image so that the latter is either obscured or completely withheld. Phillips, ‘The Aesthetics of Witnessing: A Conversation with Alfredo Jaar,’ p. 20. ‘The second screen is also an iconic image, or shall we say non-image – nothing but white light from the turned-on monitor – and this is why the installation succeeds.’ Knudsen, ‘Alfredo Jaar SCAD Museum of Art – Savannah, Georgia,’ p. 78. Solomon-Godeau, ‘Lament of the Images: Alfredo Jaar and the Ethics of Representation,’ p. 42. Jeff Wall, ‘Monochrome and Photojournalism in On Kawara’s Today Paintings’ (1993), in Lynne Cooke and Karen Kelly (eds), Robert Lehman: Lectures on Contemporary Art, no. 1, Dia Centre for the Arts, New York, 1996, p. 148. Danto, The Madonna of the Future: Essays in a Pluralistic Art World, p. 277. John Waters, ‘Serious Playboys: Tom Friedman in Conversation with John Waters,’ Parkett 64, 2002, p. 80. Bruce Bernard (ed.), Vincent by Himself, London: Orbis Publishing, 1985, p. 62. Dworkin, No Medium, p. 26. As McEvilley writes, citing Goethe: ‘Beholding an unbroken expanse of single color, he [Goethe] says, awakens awareness of universality. As such it has a tonic effect on the mind and tends to harmonize the individual beholder with the basic unity of things – it is a channel into the mystery of Oneness. He recommends living in a room which is all one color, looking at scenery and at paintings through a uni-colored lens, and so forth.’ McEvilley, The Monochrome Adventure: A Study in the Form and Content of Modern Painting, p. 3. Yves Klein, ‘The Evolution of Art Towards the Immaterial, Lecture at the Sorbonne, 3 June 1959,’ in Klein, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, p. 82. Maria-Daniella Dick and Julian Wolfreys, The Derrida Workbook, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013, p. 276. It is perhaps worth noting here that the use of the term ‘subjectile’ within the study is is in keeping with its arguably more straightforward determination as that which functions as some form of receptacle. To this end the study

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29.

30.

31. 32.

33.

is not necessarily directly concerned with Jacques Derrida’s reading of the term, given as it was through Artaud. According to Victor Burgin, whilst the ‘1978 edition of the Petit Robert dictionary defines subjectile as surface serving as support (wall, panel, canvas) for painting . . . [t]his is not how the term functions for Artaud. Rather, as Derrida notes, the subjectile is that which lies “between the surface of the subject and the object.”’ Victor Burgin, In/Different Spaces, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996, p. 153. Ralph Rugoff, ‘A Brief History of Invisible Art,’ in Copeland, Voids: A Retrospective, p. 377. ‘Path-oriented like the mystics, Malevich saw his art as a way to escape the relativity of the everyday world, which it annihilates by a kind of sympathetic magic in which the representation is taken to control the thing represented: represent the world as blank and its is voided.’ McEvilley, ‘Seeking the Primal Through Paint: The Monochrome Icon,’ p. 55. Helen Luckett and Ralph Rugoff, Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957– 2012, London: Hayward Publishing, 2012, p. 61. Comparable to Jakob’s endeavors is arguably the incident wherein whilst Klein was on a trip to Nice he strapped a canvas on the roof of his car, a DS Citroen with the explicit intention of wanting to record the memory of the wind. Peter Noever and Franc¸ois Perrin (eds.), Air Architecture Yves Klein, Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2004, p. 54. Rugoff, ‘A Brief History of Invisible Art,’ p. 377. ‘Whatever its register, the abstract painting seems, in its very way of being, to be first of all the place of a sequential deposit of the painter’s action and the motive to that action. The figurative painting is, by contrast, instantly mirror, severed and autonomous, irradiating its subject in the face of its creator.’ Ann Hindry, ‘Painting Out of Subject,’ in Ann Hindry et al., As Painting: Division and Displacement, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001, p. 185. In Andrea Rosen’s contribution to the Text volume that accompanies the catalogue raisonn´e, she notes that ‘the importance of Ownership goes far beyond making it more likely that the works will continue to be manifest. Ownership makes it possible to guarantee that the works exist whether manifest or not. This was the key to obtaining true permanency. ‘They will always exist because they don’t really exist or because they don’t have to exist all the time.’ Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Tim Rollins: (interview), in Bartman, William S. (ed.), Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Los Angeles: A.R.T. Press, 1993, p. 22.

NOTES P. 114–117

28.

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171

NOTES P. 117–118

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34. In one sense the candy spills, a related body of work that broadly functioned on the same premise were closer conceptually to their Minimalist forebears to the extent whereby they were contingent upon the body for the determination of meaning. In addition to the connotations educed through the physical consumption of the artwork, or at least a discrete part thereof, by being constantly replenished they became analogous to the conditions of possibility for certain inexorable, entropic forces the body is prone to to become momentarily arrested, if not indefinitely postponed. In that sense, they developed Minimalism’s proclivity to dialecticise the viewer’s body through the interpretive framework of phenomenology by aligning it with a broader discourse that had emerged around the idea of abjection. 35. Nancy Spector, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1995, pp. 54–55. To this end Spector adds that: ‘Yet the unadorned, empty white sheets of paper that comprise “Untitled” (Passport) leave the question of identity open-ended. These blank pages, available for the taking, announce journeys not yet made and borders not yet crossed – travels between not only geographic locations but also interior, ontological spaces, territories of negotiation between the psychological, the sexual, and the social.’ Ibid., p. 55. 36. Ibid., p. 62. 37. According to Robert Greer Cohn, the ‘empty paper protected by its whiteness would always, to say the least, prevent facility, but Mallarm´e’s concern was at first aesthetic, rather than a wrestling with the unsayable. The whiteness, or the silence, are simply more perfect than human words, the colors of life which, in Shelley’s “Adonais,” “stains the white radiance of eternity.”’ Robert Greer Cohn (ed.), Mallarm´e in the Twentieth Century, London: Associated University Presses, Inc., 1984, p. 265. 38. ‘Most of the great monochromes of modern painting no longer need to resort to little mural bouquets but present subtle imperceptible variations (which are constitutive of a percept nevertheless), either because they are cut off or edged on one side by a band, ribbon, or section of a different color or tone that, through proximity or distance, changes the intensity of the area of plain, uniform color or because they present almost virtual linear or circular figures, in matching tomes, or because they are holed or slit: these are problems of junction, once again, but considerable expanded. In short, the area of plain, uniform color vibrates, clenches or cracks open because it is the bearer of glimpsed forces. And this, fits of all, is what makes painting abstract: summoning forces, populating the area of plain, uniform color with the forces it bears, making the invisible forces visible in themselves.’ Gilles

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40.

41.

42. 43.

44.

45.

Deleuze and F´elix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, Graham Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson (trans.), 5th ed., London; New York: Verso, 2003, pp. 181–182. Speaking of his stacked paper pieces, the artist claimed that ‘[o]ne of the things that I find so flattering . . . is when people take the work and they work with it. They use it. It’s just paper, after all.’ Spector, Felix GonzalezTorres, p. 58. Miwon Kwon, ‘The Becoming of a Work of Art: FGT and a Possibility of Renewal. A Chance to Share, a Fragile Truce,’ in Julie Ault (ed.), Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Gottingen and New York: Steidldangin Publishers and the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, 2006, p. 288. Spector, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, p. 140. Indeed, and in the same text Spector develops this particular reading of Torres’s stacks: ‘The photographic “catastrophe” of which Barthes speaks is made particularly manifest in one of the paper stacks, which is composed of empty white pages, each framed with a thick black border. Entitled “Untitled” (The End), (1990), this stack signifies the past that is inexorably to come; its blank sheets are vacant photographs waiting for a projected image of whatever it is you fear losing the most, whatever it is you will want to memorialize. “Untitled” (The End), is a most cruel piece, because it tells the truth about the transience of human life and the photographs we depend upon to record it.’ Ibid., pp. 129–133. Ibid., p. 191. Whilst it is consumed en masse, it is towards the individual, and more specifically the individual’s subjectivity that the cinema screen is, in the first instance, reciprocal to. Peter Hay Halpert, ‘The Blank Screens of Hiroshi Sugimoto,’ Art Press (Paris), 196, November 1994, p. 196. As John Yau notes: ‘During this “Golden Age” of movie-going, the emphasis was on creating a fantasy atmosphere. Ornate columns, balustrades, proscenium arches, chandeliers, and murals were as much a part of the experience as the film projector, the film projected, and the screen.’ John Yau, ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto: No Such Thing As Time,’ Artforum, April 1984, p. 49. Moreover, and as Julie L. Belcove notes, this is underscored by the care and precision he brings to his craft: ‘Before he reaches the printing stage, though, he has to make the perfect negative. In the case of the theatre series, that can mean sitting through the same bad movie – what Sugimoto rates as “B-minus” day after day. The series which was begun with grand old movie houses from Tampa to San Francisco and expanded to include drive-ins, captures not just a piece of our cultural history but also the literal passage of time. To achieve the brilliant white glow that makes

NOTES P. 118–119

39.

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NOTES P. 119–120

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46.

47. 48.

49.

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the work surprisingly spiritual – as of God were emanating from the screen that Americans worship. Sugimoto leaves the film exposed for the duration of the movie. After he shoots, he returns to his hotel bathroom, where he quickly processes the film in much the same way nineteenthcentury traveling photographers did in their wagons. Once he examines the negative, he can determine how to tweak the shot the next day to make the image just right, the detail razor-sharp.’ Julie L. Belcove, ‘Camera Man,’ W 30, no. 2, February 2001, p. 212. As Jean Dykstra notes: ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs have long toyed with the notion of time: there are his movie theater photographs, in which an entire film is captured in one long exposure, compressing a full-length feature into a glowing white light; or his seascapes, minimalist images of sky and water, often taken over several hours; or his lifelike photographs of wax figures from Madame Tussaud’s museums, figures that themselves were often based on photographs or old master paintings.’ Jean Dykstra, ‘Sugimoto’s Time Machines,’ Art on Paper, January-February 2002, p. 46. On one level, Sugimoto’s working methods might arguably appear today to be anachronistic, given the ubiquity of digital technology that is freely at the disposal of artists working today. However, the anachronistic dimension that ostensibly pertains to Sugimoto’s practice is arguably more broadly indicative of the artist’s particular relationship to time, a relationship that in effect underscores his practice as a whole. Halpert, ‘The Blank Screens of Hiroshi Sugimoto,’ p. 196. ‘The monochrome painting is the most mysterious icon of modern art. A rectangle of a single more or less unmodulated color is erected on the wall at eye level and gazed at by humans standing before it in a reverential silence. What is happening? The painting is not impressing the viewer through a display of skill. In it skill is negated. Color manipulation and relationship are negated. Subject matter, drama, narrative, painterly presence, touch are absent. The color may have been applied with a roller or spray gun; it may even be the natural color of the unpainted fabric. One might as well be looking at the wall the picture is mounted on. Yet here, in this ritual-pictorial moment, the deepest meanings of Western modernist art are embedded – its highest spiritual aspirations, its dream of a utopian future, its madness, its folly.’ McEvilley, ‘Seeking the Primal Through Paint: The Monochrome Icon,’ p. 45. Jason Oddy, ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto: Man Out of Time,’ Modern Painters, December 2004, p. 76.

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NOTES P. 121–122

50. Rauschenberg described the erased de Kooning drawing as a ‘monochrome no-image.’ Rauschenberg, quoted in Maxime de la Falaise McKendry, ‘Robert Rauschenberg talks to Maxime de la Falaise McKendry,’ Interview 6, no. 5, May 1976, p. 36. 51. ‘Speaking of her light works she draws attention to the fact that “they are not necessarily about anything outside of the work itself and the context of its production.”’ ‘Freddy Contreas and Ceal Floyer in conversation with Kim Sweet’ in Freddy Contreas and Ceal Floyer, The Showroom, London 1995, unpaginated, reproduced in ‘Ceal Floyer,’ in Lauson et al., Light Show, p. 98.

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Mercer, Kobena (ed.), Discrepant Abstraction, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. Mitchell, W. J. T., ‘Ut Pictura Theoria: Abstract Painting and the Repression of Language,’ Critical Inquiry 15 (Winter 1989): pp. 348–371. , (ed.), Art and the Public Sphere, Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992. Mondrian, Piet, ‘The Plastic Means,’ (1927) in Mary Ann Claws (ed.), Manifesto: A Century of Isms, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001, p. 432. Morley, Simon, ‘Robert Ryman,’ Art Monthly 164, (March 1993): pp. 10–11. Moss, Ceci, ‘Interview with Katie Paterson,’ Rhizome, wed. June 16th 2010, http://rhizome.org/editorial/2010/jun/16/interview-with-katie-paterson/ Myers, Terry R. (ed.), Painting, London; Cambridge, MA; Whitechapel Gallery; MIT Press, 2011. Nancy, Jean-Luc, The Birth to Presence, Brian Holmes et al. (trans), California: Stanford University Press, 1993. Noble, Richard, Shiny Dirty, Birmingham: Ikon Gallery, 2004. Oddy, Jason, ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto: Man Out of Time,’ Modern Painters (December 2004): p. 74. Ottmann, Klaus (trans.), Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Putnam, CT: Spring Publications, 2007. Paz, Octavio, Convergences, Helen Lane (trans.), London: Bloomsbury, 1990. P´ecoil, Vincent, ‘The American Action Printer,’ Wade Guyton 1st avril – 28 mai 2006, Le Salle de Bains, 56, rue Saint-Jean, Lyon, 2006, pp. 79–83. , Steven Parrino, New York: Gagosian, 2007. Peirce, Charles Sanders, Philosophic Writings of Peirce, Justus Buchler (ed.), New York: Dover Publications, 1955. Peucker, Brigitte, The Material Image: Art and the Real in Film, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2007. Phillips, Patricia C., ‘The Aesthetics of Witnessing: A Conversation with Alfredo Jaar,’ Art Journal, vol. 64, no. 3 (Fall 2005): pp. 7–27. Pickford, Henry W., The Sense of Semblance: Philosophical Analyses of Holocaust Art, New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. Poetter, Jochen, G¨unter Umberg: Body of Painting, Cologne: Museum Ludwig, 2000. Potts, Alex, The Sculptural Imagination: Figurative Modernist Minimalist, New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2000. , ‘Tactility: The Interrogation of the Medium in Art of the 1960s,’ Art History, vol. 27, no. 2 (April 2004): pp. 282–304.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Propp, Vladimir, Morphology of the Folktale, Laurence Scott (trans.), Louis A. Wagner (ed.), Austin, Texas; London: University of Texas Press, 1979. Reza, Yasmina, Art, Christopher Hampton (trans.), London: Faber and Faber, 1996. Richardson, Brenda, Frank Stella: The Black Paintings, Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art, c. 1976. Roberts, Rebecca (ed.), Robert Rauschenberg, New York: MoMA, 2009. Roelstraete, Dieter, ‘The Way of the Shovel: On the Archaeological Imaginary in Art,’ e-flux Journal, no. 4, March 2009, http://www.e-flux.com/ journal/the-way-of-the-shovel-on-the-archeological-imaginary-in-art/ Rorimer, Anne, New Art in the 60s and 70s: Redefining Reality, London: Thames & Hudson, 2004. Rose, Barbara, (ed.), Art-as-Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt, Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1991. , et al., Monochromes: From Malevich to the Present, Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2007. Rosenmeyer, Aoife, ‘A Grammar of the Accidental,’ Frieze 153, March 2013, p. 169. Rosenthal, Stephanie, Black Paintings, Munich: Haus der Kunst, 2006. Rosenthal, William, Spectacles and Other Vision Aids: A History and Guide to Collecting, San Francisco, California: Norman Publishing, 1996. Ross, W. D. (trans.), The Works of Aristotle, vol. 3, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931. Rothkopf, Scott, ‘Modern Pictures,’ in Color, Power & Style, K¨oln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther K¨onig, 2006, pp. 65–82. , Wade Guyton, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013. Rowell, Margit, and Angelica Zander, Art of the Avant-Garde in Russia: Selections From the George Costakis Collection, New York: Soloman R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1981. Rudakova, Natalia, ‘Mirror to a Traditional World,’ in Tradition and Revolution in Russian Art, Susan Causey (ed.), Manchester: Cornerhouse Publications, 1990, pp. 62–70. Sack, Robert David, Human Territorality: Its Theory and History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Sainsbury, Helen (ed.), Miroslaw Balka How It Is, London: Tate Publishing, 2009. Sandler, Irving, The New York School: The Painters and Sculptors of the Fifties, New York: Harper and Row, 1978. Seamon, David and Zajonc, Arthur, Goethe’s Way of Science: A Phenomenology of Nature, New York: State University of New York Press, 1998.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Tomkins, Calvin, The Bride and the Bachelors: Five Masters of the Avant Garde, New York: Penguin, 1976. Trezise, Thomas, ‘Unspeakable,’ The Yale Journal of Criticism, vol. 1, no. 1, (spring 2001): pp. 39–66. Tuchman, Phyllis, ‘Interview with Robert Ryman,’ Artforum 9 (May 1971): pp. 46–53. Van Scepen, Randall K., ‘From the Form of Spirit to the Spirit of Form,’ in James Elkins (ed.), Re-Enchantment, London: Taylor & Francis, 2009, pp. 47–68. Vergo, Peter, Abstraction: Towards A New Art, Painting 1910–1920, London: Tate Gallery Publications, 1980. Vidler, Anthony, Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and the Uncanny in Modern Culture, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001. Walton, Kendall L., Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990. Waring, Stephen P., Taylorism Transformed: Scientific Management Theory Since 1945, Chapel Hill; London: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. Waters, John, ‘Serious Playboys: Tom Friedman in Conversation with John Waters,’ Parkett 64, (2002): pp. 78–84. Wei, Lilly, Radical Painting, Williamstown, Massachusetts: Williams College Museum of Art, 1984. Weitemeier, Hannah, Yves Klein 1928–1962 International Klein Blue, Koln: Taschen, 1995. Welchman, John C., Invisible Colors: A Visual History of Titles, Yale University Press, 1997. Westcott, James, ‘Gregor Schneider and the Flattering Performance Installation,’ TDR: The Drama Review, vol. 49, Issue 4 (Winter 2005): pp. 183–189. White, John, The Birth and Rebirth of Pictorial Space, London: Faber, 1967. Whiteread, Rachel, ‘Transcript of an interview by Michael Archer from Audio Arts Vol. 12, No. 1, 1992,’ http://www2.tate.org.uk/audioarts/ cd3 rw transcript.htm , ‘Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with Rachel Whiteread, 4 January 2004,’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00ncxzw Wiebel, Peter and Jansen, Gregor (eds), Light Art from Artificial Light: Light as a Medium in 20th and 21st Century Art, London; Ostfildern: Hatze Cantz, 2006. Williams, Gilda, ‘Doubling: Gregor Schneider interviewed by Gilda Williams,’ Art Monthly 340, (October 2010): pp. 1–4.

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Yau, John, ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto: No Such Thing As Time,’ Artforum 22, no. 8 (April 1984): pp. 48–52. Zelizer, Barbie (ed.), Visual Culture and the Holocaust, London: The Athlone Press, 2001. Zhadova, Larissa Alekseevna, Malevich: Suprematism and Revolution in Russian Art 1910–1930, London: Thames & Hudson, 1982. , (ed.), Tatlin, London: Thames & Hudson, 1988.

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Index Abstract Expressionism 25, 31, 46, 60, 103, 107 abstraction 2, 5, 30, 32, 35, 48, 49, 51, 58, 59, 61, 66, 72, 79, 90, 93, 113, 116 Albers, Josef 43, 44, 46 Alberti, Leon Battista 29, 50, 101 Allais, Alphonse 3, 4, 24, 81 Aristotle 7, 54

Caravaggio 26 Carnegie, Gillian 33–34, 35, 36 Chong-Hyun, Ha 94–95 Clark, T. J. 5 Claude mirror 34–35 Claude Lorrain mirror in shark skin case 34 Coventry, Keith 33, 35–36, 37, 55–57, 66 Cruz, Angela de la 96, 99–100

Baer, Jo 89, 93 Balka, Miroslaw 15–17, 21, 22, 23 How It Is 16 black as the absence of sight 15 as the absorption of light 25 associations with death 7, 23, 39 as first matter 14 as negativity 7 as non-colour 7, 63 and representation 35, 26 46 Black Mountain College 43, 44, 45, 46, 83 Bois, Yves-Alain 59 Bourriaud, Nicolas 118 Bryson, Norman 29

Dadson, Andrew 38, 99 Danto, Arthur C. 3, 4, 21, 106 Deleuze, Gilles 118 Deontology 55, 56 Derrida, Jacques 32 Duchamp. Marcel 44, 80, 89

Cage, John 8, 44, 46, 61, 83, 86, 89, 112

Elkins, James 50–51 Floyer, Ceal 3, 121–123 Auto Focus 121 Fludd, Robert 14–15 formalism 30, 44, 48, 50, 55, 80, 90, 92, 96, 116 formalist criticism 29, 31, 46, 47 82 post-formalism 96 Foster, Hal 33, 58 Foucault, Michel 26, 32, 33, 39

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Friedman, Tom 3, 112–113, 114, 115, 116 Gmelin, Felix 40–41 Painting Modernism Black 40 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 75–76,77 Gogh, Vincent van 113 Gonzalez-Torres, Felix 116–118 Greenberg, Clement 29–30, 31, 32, 33, 44, 46, 50, 51, 62, 77, 78, 89, 90 On the monochrome 48 Guattari, F´elix 118 Guyton, Wade 64–67, 96, 97 Source file for Guyton’s monochromes 65 haptic 50, 53–54 Hay, Young 5–6 Bejing Trip, 2000, from the ‘Bonjour, Young Hay (After Courbet)’ series 6 Hedrick, Wally 17–19, 20 War Room 18 Hirst, Damien 40–41 Holzer, Jenny 33, 41–42 indexical sign-type 83, 84–85, 115 Jaar, Alfredo 107–112 May 1, 2011 110 Jakob, Bruno 114–116 Nowhere But Somewhere Invisible Paintings 115 James, Henry 106 Johns, Jasper 47, 61 Judd, Donald 78 Kandinsky, Wassily 7 Kidd, Natasha 97–98 Inflate I, II 97 Klein, Yves 5, 26, 48, 102, 103–105, 113–114, 115 Interior view of the Galerie Iris Clert 104 Krauss, Rosalind 84–85

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Kwon, Miwon 118 lack 101–102 Levine, Sherrie 3, 57–59 LeWitt, Sol 56, 66, 98 Light and Space movement 78–81 Lissitzky, El 98 Malevich, Kasimir 26, 36 52, 56, 64, 92, 100, 103, 107, 116, 120 0.10 exhibition 11–14 Black Square, (1915) 1, 2, 4, 12, 13, 14, 15, 22, 24, 25, 35, 42 Photo installation of 0.10 exhibition 12 Suprematist Composition: White on White, (1918) 81–82, 92, 106 Mallarm´e, St´ephane 107, 118 Manzoni, Piero 102–103 Martin, Agnes 93 materiality 12, 46, 51, 52, 95, 96 McEvilley, Thomas 31, 64, 73, 100, 103, 104, 106–107, 112, 113, 116, 120, 122, 123 Mikus, Eleanore 87–92 Tablet 55 (view of back) 88 Minimalism 44, 51, 77–78, 80, 81, 87, 89, 90, 93, 117 modernist painting 36, 50, 58, 82 Mondrian, Piet 7 Mono-ha 94 monochrome 2 as aesthetic negation 60, 63, 82, 98 as metaphysical presence 2, 22, 36, 48, 63–64, 82, 103 as the ne plus ultra of abstract painting 2, 5, 37, 58, 59, 82 as the negation of sight 15, 22, 24, 111 as nothing 5, 22, 23, 105, 106–107, 112, 122 as palimpsest 37–38, 39 as physical presence 48, 64, 93, 95, 96, 99

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Newton, Isaac 75, 76 The light spectrum produced by refraction at a prism 75 Ollenderf, Paul 4, 24 Parrino, Steven 99 Paterson, Katie 23–25 Peirce, Charles Sanders 85 Pliny the Elder 27, 31, 32 Juno and her handmaidens seated before the painter Zeuxis, and Parrhasius rushing to unveil his painting before a group of observers 28 Pollock, Jackson 61, 84–85 Popova, Liubov 11, 60 post-modernism 33 post-structuralism 32 Prince, Richard 57 Propp, Vladimir 101–102 Radical Painting exhibition 49–50, 55 Radical Painting installation shot 49 Rauschenberg, Robert 37, 41, 43–48, 56, 61, 82–84, 85–86, 89, 112, 115 Untitled [glossy black painting] 45 White Painting [three panel] 83 Reinhardt, Ad 26, 36, 48, 60–64, 66

Renaissance 7, 26, 29 Rodchenko, Alexander 38, 60, 64 Rose, Barbara 3 Rothko, Mark 26 Russian avant-garde 3 Ryman, Robert 92–94, 95–96 and realism 93

INDEX

relationship with language 3, 22, 39, 52 relationship with representation 15, 33, 35, 46, 50, 100, 111, 116, 120 Morris, Robert 84 Motherwell, Robert 25, 107

Saban, Analia 99, 100 Schneider, Gregor 1–2 Souza, F. N. 36–37 Spector, Nancy 117, 118, 119 Stella, Frank 48, 51–52, 58, 66 Sterne, Laurence 3, 39 Stockholder, Jessica 38 Structuralism 101 subjectile 114 Sugimoto, Hiroshi 119–121 Turner, J. M. W. 71–75, 76–77, 100 Venice with the Salute 73 Twombly, Cy 84 Umberg, G¨unter 49, 50–51, 52–53 Venice Biennale 1 Vidler, Anthony 21 Wallinger, Mark 33, 37–38, 39, 41 Warhol, Andy 64, 66, 84 Wheeler, Douglas 80–81 Whiteread, Rachel 19–21 Wilde, Frederick de 25–26 Zen Buddhism 44, 90–91

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Plate Section

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Plate 1. Gregor Schneider, END, M¨onchengladbach 2008, mixed media (14 × 14 × 66m (W × H × L)), St¨adtisches Museum Abteiberg, M¨onchengladbach, c Gregor Schneider/VG Bild-Kunst Bonn Germany 08.11.2008–06.09.2009. 

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Plate 2. Robert Fludd, Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia . . . [Tractatus secundus de naturae simia seu technica macrocosmi historia] in Aere J. T. de Bry, typ. H. Galleri,’ Oppenheim: 1617–1618, p. 26. Courtesy Wellcome Library, London

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Plate 3. Wally Hedrick, War Room, 1967–68/2002, oil on canvas, eight panels, each 11 × 5 6 . Image courtesy of the Estate of Wally Hedrick and The Box, Los Angeles. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen

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c The Estate of Plate 4. James Lee Byars, The Ghost of James Lee Byars, 1969.  James Lee Byars. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York. Photograph: Justine Oullette

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Plate 5. Rachel Whiteread, Closet, 1988. Plaster, wood and felt 63 × 34 × 5/8 × c Rachel Whiteread. Courtesy of the Gagosian 14 1/2 inches (160 × 88 × 37 cm).  Gallery

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Plate 6. Katie Paterson, History of Darkness, 2010. Black and white photographs, de-bossed mounts. Installation view, Haunch of Venison, London, 2010. Courtesy of the artist and Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh

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Plate 7. Frederick de Wilde, Hostage pt. 1, 2010. SWNTs (single walled carbon nanotubes), silicon wafer

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c Dumbarton Oaks, Pre-Columbian Plate 8. Obsidian mirror or portable altar.  Collection, Washington, DC

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c Grosvenor Gallery 2014 & Plate 9. F. N. Souza, Head of Man Thinking, 1965.  Estate of F. N. Souza. All rights reserved, DACS 2014

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Plate 10. Mark Wallinger, Via Dolorosa, 2002. Projected video installation (silent), continuous loop, black rectangle painted on wall, 18 minutes 8 seconds, View of permanent installation at Milan Cathedral. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. c Mark Wallinger. Image from Mark Wallinger by Mark Herbert, published by  Thames & Hudson

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Plate 11. Andrew Dadson, Black Painted Lawn With White Fence, 2006. Lightjet, 56 × 72 inches, (142.2 × 182.9 cm). Courtesy of the artist, Galleria Franco Noero, Torino, Italy and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

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Plate 12. ‘Black Page’ taken from a first edition copy of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman 1760. Copyright The Laurence Sterne Trust

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Plate 13. Jenny Holzer, COLIN POWELL YELLOW WHITE, 2005. Oil on linen, 4 elements 33 × 102 in. / 83.8 × 259.1 cm. Text: U.S. government document. c 2005 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY and DACS,  London 2014

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Plate 14. G¨unter Umberg, Untitled, 2003. Dammar and pigment on wood 73 × 70 cm |28 3/4 × 27 1/2 in. Photo credit: Gerhard Kassner, Berlin (www.kassnerfoto.net)

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Plate 15. Keith Coventry, Deontological Picture B, 2012. Photo: Peter White. c Keith Coventry. DACS 2014 

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Plate 16. Ad Reinhardt 1913–1967, Abstract Painting No. 5, 1962, oil paint on canvas, 1524 × 1524 mm. Presented by Mrs Rita Reinhardt through the American c Tate, London 2014.  c ARS, NY and DACS, London Federation of Arts 1972.  2014

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Plate 17. Wade Guyton, Untitled, 2007, Epson UltraChrome inkjet on linen, 84 × 69 inches, 203.2 × 175.3 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Petzel, New York.

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Plate 18. Doug Wheeler, Untitled, 1969. Sprayed lacquer on acrylic with neon tubing 91 1/2 × 91 1/2 × 7 1/2 inches 232.4 × 232.4 × 19.1 cm Photo by Jens Fredc 2014 Doug Wheeler; courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London eriksen 

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Plate 19. Eleanore Mikus, Tablet 55, 1963; 1966, 1980. 72 × 57 3/4 inches, white c of the artist epoxy on wood. 

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Plate 20. Robert Ryman, An all white painting measuring 9 1/2 × 10 and signed twice on the left side, 1961. Oil on linen canvas; 13 3/4 in. × 13 3/4 in. × 1 1/2 in. (34.93 cm × 34.93 cm × 3.81 cm); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Purchase c 2014 Robert Ryman/DACS, London through a gift of Mimi and Peter Haas. 

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Plate 21. Jo Baer, Untitled (Stacked Horizontal Diptych – Aluminium), 1966–1974. Oil on canvas, two parts, each 152.4 × 213.3 × 6.4 cm/ 60 × 84 × 2.5 inch, private collection

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Plate 22. Ha Chong-Hyun, Conjunction 77–1, 1977. Courtesy of the artist

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Plate 23. Angela de la Cruz Burst (White), 2012. Oil and acrylic on aluminium 65 × c of the artist; Courtesy, Lisson 58.5 × 33.5 cm, photograph by Ken Adlard.  Gallery, London

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Plate 24. Natasha Kidd, Inflate I (detail static), 2009/10. Canvas, tubing, valve, pump, aluminium trough and white emulsion paint 1.5m × 0.6m × c Natasha Kidd 0.25m. 

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Plate 25. Steven Parrino, Untitled, 1997, enamel on canvas, 60 × 60 inches/ c Collection of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner; 152.4 × 152.4 cm.  promised gift to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Courtesy of the Gagosian Gallery

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Plate 26. Analia Saban, Trough (Flesh), 2012. Oil paint on primed canvas, 56 × c Analia Saban 70 × 9 inches. 

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Plate 27. Alfredo Jaar, Lament of the Images, 2002. Three illuminated texts, light screen, text by David Levi Strauss. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Museum of Modern Art, New York and the artist, New York

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Plate 28. Bruno Jakob, Nowhere But Somewhere Invisible Paintings, Installation and Performance. Nature, Insects, Humidity, Sweat, Tears, Dust, Smell, Fire, Earth, Water, Brainwaves, Energy, Touch, Thought, Light, Air, Pleasure, Pain, Fear, Music, Sound, Echoes, Memory, Talk, Love, Live, Death and the Unknown. Some are lost and have found freedom. Various techniques on different materials, sizes and in unexpected places. Music: Hans Witschi, 21.03.2014 – 17.05.2014

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Plate 29. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (Passport), 1991. Paper, endless supply 10 cm at ideal height × 60 × 60 cm (original paper size) (4 in. at ideal height × 23 5/8 × 23 5/8 in. (original paper size)) Installation view of Political/Minimal. KunstWerke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (KW Berlin). 30 Nov. 2008 – 25 Jan. c The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Courtesy 2009. Cur. Klaus Bisenbach.  of Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York

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Plate 30. Hiroshi Sugimoto Compton Drive-In, Compton, 1994. Gelatin silver print c Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy of Pace 20 × 24 (50.8 × 61 cm) Edition of 25,  Gallery