Painting Report, "Plane: The Essential of Painting"

Jun 30–Sep 30, 2002


P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center is pleased to present Painting Report, Plane: The Essentials of Painting. Featuring works by Al Held, William Scharf, Fabian Marcaccio and Kristin Baker, this exhibition investigates properties of the picture plane in response to modernist and post-modernist painting.

Various post-modernist claims assert painting's downfall; for some, painting was considered an exalted form of letter-writing, which avoided broader economic, gender, and class issues that could potentially project art into wider social contexts. The persistence of contemporary painters is evidence, however, that nothing is more invigorating for an art form than to be declared dead.

Every contemporary painter, no matter how revolutionary, must continue the enduring tradition of negotiating the picture plane. The painters in Painting Report, Plane assert their attitudes toward painting's ground."Instead of the probably vast expository exhibition to investigate this theme, this exhibition defines just four different attitudes that represent modernist/post-modernist time.

Al Held's immense project boasts a grand reversal of one of late modernism's proscriptions: flatness. In his paintings, an ecstatic profusion of receding forms is juxtaposed with glimpses of empty space. Because Held works only in "ground," it is difficult to analyze figure-ground relationships in these abstract paintings.

William Scharf is a slightly younger contemporary of the Abstract Expressionists. This major artist's work results from a lifetime cultivation the surrealist aesthetic that captivated William Baziotes, Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock early in their careers. Scharf's burning, fuliginous colors explore the dark side of a movement that directed itself towards clarity and reduction.

Fabian Marcaccio's Untitled is a confident reinterpretation of the picture plane. Recognizing the potential energy in a traditional surface, Marcaccio tears the canvas away from the wall. His handling is extreme: the canvas curves around the corner of the room, laden with paint and plastic and imprinted with photo transfers. But it is still the picture plane that energizes his post-modernist conceptions. While Held moves illusionism inward, Marcaccio builds outward with literal collage, encrustations, and paint, occasionally trapping pockets of illusion.

Kristin Baker interprets the picture plane as a thin, swift tissue consonant with her subject: the racing car and track. The "integrity of the picture plane" is intact in these paintings, which, in their modernist pedigree, navigate between flatness and intimations of depth. From her post-modernist viewpoint, Baker, along with several young artists, feels free to exercise a previous tradition. The durability of the picture plane as a locus of creative energy is certified by a member of a new generation.

This exhibition is curated by P.S.1 Director Alanna Heiss with P.S.1 Associate Curator Daniel Marzona.



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