The death of painting has been announced since the times of Caravaggio and has been repeatedly the cause of controversy among painters and painterly styles, later between abstraction and figuration and now it finds a stage to occur at Gagosian. Since the birth of photography and film, through the emergence of conceptual art and performance art in the 1960s, to installation art and, more recently, internet art these debates have found momentum.
Fraire Barnes with Time Out considers as ‘clever’, the fact that Mark Francis, the curator of this show, has used painting’s supposed death to create an ode to the age-old process of applying paint to canvas. According to him ‘all the works seem to cry ‘Long Live Painting,’ some silently, some raucously’. There are the usual suspects like Cy Twombly, some young guns like Nate Lowman and Wade Guyton and a few surprises like Yves Klein, represented by an uncharacteristic ‘Untitled Fire-Colour Painting’, 1962.The only thing that links them is a dark palette and in the case of Warhol and Guyton, for example, a thematisation of death and destruction which in themselves are very different things than ‘the death of painting’.
This show is a sign of the times where artists are gathered by their aesthetic appeal instead of their meaning or relevance. Gagosian seems not to have time to go one step further of mere presentation. He treats his gallery like a catwalk and this season the right colours appears to be black and brown.
Sombre colour-ground experimentations by Richard Serra and Gerhard Richter are juxtaposed with Robert Rauschenberg’s sublimely curious ‘White Painting (Two Panel)’ (1951), a diptych of two canvases painted entirely white which paradoxically appear to represent a primed canvas waiting to be painted. There are fun, pop art takes, like Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Stretcher Frame with Vertical Bar’, (1968), which represents the back of a canvas, and apparent pisstakes, like Andy Warhol’s mischievously humorous ‘Oxidation’, 1978 which was made by weeing directly on to a copper sheet.
This is such a bad show that I cannot even express it properly. It is a bully of a show imposing an idea of itself by violating the artists and the public in the process. A very good allegorical representation of Larry Gagosian himself. I am sure that Time Out’s Freire Barnes has a friend there or has received a couple of invitation for fancy dinners to say that: ‘this exemplary exhibition reminds us that painting still has a voice. The show is far from over’. Embarrassing! Just a thought.
Until November 30th
at Gagossian Britannia St