The slaves to facture vs. tentative doubters at Exit Art

Benin Ford, “Black Jesus,”oil on canvas, 18 x 14.” Courtesy of the artist.
 Mira Dancy, Desnuda, 2009, oil, acrylic, ink, text on canvas
48″ x 40 inches. Although others disagree, I’d argue that the JPEG looks better than the actual painting.

Jesse Chapman, “The Hole,” 2009, oil on canvas, 22 x 12.” Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery.

In the February issue of The Brooklyn Rail I reviewed “New Mirrors: Painting in a Transparent World” at Exit Art. Here’s an excerpt.

“In New Mirrors: Painting in a Transparent World” curator Herb Tam suggests that painters, confronting a digital onslaught in which shifting identities are continually updated and instantly distributed, are compelled to deconstruct the logistics of painting in a similar fashion. This idea leads him to assert that the artists whose work he has included in the show are dragging �the corpse of painting to the limits of legibility with processes that mirror a philosopher�s probing, discursive thinking.� [Two Coats readers will know that statements like this make me see red.–Ed.] The show as a whole does not remotely expose such stark iconoclasm. Despite the hyperbole, however, Tam has selected pieces that reflect current directions among painters today.

“In Tam�s view, contemporary painters take positions between polarities: good and bad, right and wrong, figurative and abstract, beauty and vulgarity. Beyond that, I would contend that most painters fall into two dichotomous categories. First, there are those who love paint�slaves to facture�who believe in the power and beauty of the painting process. This category includes, among those represented in the show, Jesse Chapman, Benin Ford, Andy Piedilato, and Julia San Martin. The second group comprises painters who apprehend the medium more tentatively and dubiously, treating it like a conundrum with roots not in painterly concerns or visual phenomenon but in ideas and language. Kadar Brock, Mira Dancy, and Alison Fox are representative of these artists….”

Read the entire article here.

NEW MIRRORS: Painting in a Transparent World,” Exit Art, New York, NY. Through February 6, 2010.


  1. The Brocks (his website as much as the show) reminded me of Christopher Wool and early Stella. I don�t see them as anti facture so much as more linear � which is just as much a �painterly� quality as thick or heavy applications of color.

  2. thanks
    i read the essay of the show and it didn't make any sense, except repeat the obvious covered by semantics (you're right!) and the already received: digital transparency (which has an early 2000's tone to it circa Apple imacs; or, death of painting c/o photography (actually jonathan crary has a much better thesis- that this so-called death pre-dated photography's invention (see camera obscura), and, the mode of seriality within capitalism which killed "facture".
    i wonder also, if the show was a response to ralph rubenstein's "provisional painting" in reality aka "contemporary german painting"

  3. " But it begs the question of whether more unconventional painters have truly found uncharted territory or devised a clever excuse for anemic, disengaged painting that merely skirts the aesthetic challenges of the digital age. Likewise, the polarity of New Mirrors demonstrates only that while the digital age may indeed have prompted some artists to discard painterly standards, it has also inspired other painters to adapt them enterprisingly and effectively to the new epoch."

    Snap. Well said.

    I'm new to this blog, but boy-howdy have I found a winner. Thanks for being such a good writer and helping me stay sharp on my contemporaries. Good on you.

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