Despite the high visibility of abstraction in the art world over the last few years, the critical discourse around abstract painting has seen little evolution (despite a few new terms being coined here and there, such as Provisional Painting or New Casualism, Zombie Formalism, etc…). Major museum exhibitions have been organized around contemporary abstract art (among which Painter Painter at the Walker Art Center in 2013, or The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World at the NY Moma in 2014/2015), but they somehow lacked to grasp the essence of novel contemporary abstract painting.
The Painter Painter exhibition ambitioned to “survey [the] emergent developments in abstract painting and studio practice”, but the curators seemed more interested in proposing a selection of varied high-quality individual approaches – insisting on the absence of links between them – than to decipher why those approaches are novel and specific to our times.
The Moma exhibition – by its very title that includes keywords like Forever and Atemporal – seems to give up the research of new reading keys to contemporary painting and to posit that the only current approach possible to painting is timelessness, which would mean that our era has no bearing on artistic creation nor that the art history sequence in which painting is being created is meaningful. Even if this interpretation puts forward the universalism of the works (which artist does not want to produce a piece that will last “forever”?), it also implies that the only way to paint today is to reproduce existing schemes ad libitum, and that craftsmanship has taken an edge over creativity. This assertion is opposite to abstract room views and raison d’etre. We strongly believe that among today’s artistic production in the field of abstraction, novel practices are alive, and that those practices are intimately attached to our times, writing another chapter of art history that is specific to today’s world. Abstract room mainspring is to identify, encourage and promote them!
Picture: Mary Weatherford’s La Noche at Moma’s The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World