The Death of Painting

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, Opus 1711, acrylic on archival paper

Q: What do you say to the claim that painting is dead?

ReeL: People still wonder about that?  I won’t deny that there are a lot of dead paintings out there.  I always thought Thomas McEvilley’s The Exiles Return, Toward a Redefinition of Painting for the Post-Modern Era answered that question in 1994.   And that’s for the Post-Modern era.

After Post-Modernism, the role of painting is possibly even more significant.  So I don’t consider it a relevant issue today.

Q: What about your own work?

ReeL: Personally, that is, in terms of my work, I never considered it an issue.  There are issues interesting to me and which have always been central to my work as an artist that have to do with unique properties of two-dimensional imagery.

To fully go into it, I could talk about that for probably about eighteen hours or more. That’s a whole book in itself.  The role of mapping,  the whole thing around signs and signification, marks and marking, surface and boundedness.  It goes on and on and in many places is quite technical.  Though this whole area is core to my work and how I think about it and generate it,  I have almost never met an observer  who needed any of this to have a fulfilling and deep experience of my work, or who was even that interested in most of it, for that matter.

On another level,  I covered some of this ground in my earlier blog posts on this site:  Specifically,  there is an inherent materialism in all things three dimensional and there are unique possibilities for moving against materialism within a two-dimensional practice.  This is a core to why I do art in the first place.

America, being an extremely materialistic society, tends to be a bit deaf to these issues, but that is fine with me.  A good deal of American art, for example, spent several decades trying to make painting as three dimensional as possible and there are still people who think this way. That mentality has never been relevant to what I am trying to do, or to what I am interested in.

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