Painting modern life (from photographs)

“The Painting of Modern Life,” curated by Ralph Rugoff. Artists include Richard Artschwager, Robert Bechtle, Vija Celmins, Peter Doig, Marlene Dumas, Thomas Eggerer, Judith Eisler, Franz Gertsch, Richard Hamilton, Eberhard Havekost, David Hockney, Johannes Kahrs, Johanna Kandl, Martin Kippenberger, Liu Xiaodong, Malcolm Morley, Elizabeth Peyton, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Gerhard Richter, Wilhelm Sasnal, Luc Tuymans and Andy Warhol. The Hayward Gallery, London. Through Dec. 30.

Adrian Searle reports in The Guardian: “Photography, it was said, would kill painting, or at least take over various aspects of painting’s role as a record of the modern world. Painting has instead found itself in a fruitful, if frequently problematic, relationship both with photographs and with film. Photographs have become much more than a sketchbook for painters. The world as it is mediated through photography, film and video, and the ways we relate to it, have become a subject for the painter.” Read more.

In the Telegraph, Richard Dorment reports: ” Gerhard Richter, Richard Artschwager, Vija Celmins, Malcolm Morley and Andy Warhol all found the images that appeared in their paintings in magazines, newspapers, films and advertisements. Rugoff argues that in doing so they increased exponentially the number, range, and variety of images (and therefore subjects) for artists to paint. That’s just the premise. Arranged thematically, the show goes on to look at the many different ways in which the act of painting a photograph transforms its meaning and the information we can get from it.” Read more.

In the Evening Standard, Brian Sewell proclaims the show a wretched assemblage of brand-name, trendy rubbish. “This exhibition is devoid of intellectual and aesthetic merit. Nothing is beautiful and nothing well-painted (by which I mean painted with any feeling for or understanding of the medium), and the excuses for mounting it – the supposed descent from Baudelaire and the supposed need to re-examine a relationship between painting and photography – are pointless, the first feeble and the second stale. Alas, the director-cum-curator of the Hayward Gallery is clearly a man of all the current orthodoxies of contemporary art, a man who not only believes that every picture, simply by virtue of being a picture, no matter how bad, must be a work of art, but that everyone who paints, no matter how badly, must be a genius. The painting of modern life needs not the hundreds of compliant Rugoffs who now decide what we shall see and how we must see it but curators with an eye for quality, who can distinguish good from bad, spiritual from banal, and make judgments that purge art of its worthless hangers-on. Unwittingly, of course, Rugoff has, for the intelligent visitor of independent mind, achieved the very reverse of his intention – he has proved that unless a painter is a Sickert or Degas (and nowadays there are very few of these), photography has been a disastrous influence on art.” Read more.

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