invention of the ‘artist’s hand narrative’ allowed us to read Abstract Expressionist paintings rather than look at them.”6 Op, on the other hand, “proposed that our pleasure in art derives less from knowing what we are looking at than from the anxiety of not-knowing just this. So we take pleasure from the object’s singular selfpossession, from its resistance to being internalized as a legible, conceptual entity.”7 And so the meanings, or anti-meanings, that we glean from Op reside in its refusal to be mythologized, to be anything other than a thing to look at. And as a thing to look at, it is insistent and profligate: It captures us without our permission, and its pleasures are available to all.
The artwork presented in Doppler Shift sits on a double paradox. Marking a half century since Op first burst upon the scene, it is in many ways a generational renewal of an anti-historical moment (which has since entered the history books). And with generational renewal comes reflection and critique: an assessment of what made the first wave of perceptual art right for its time, and what, if any, significance it can accrue in the second decade of the twenty-first century. The exhibition is in itself a form of assessment and renewal. In 2012, the artist Sarah Klein curated an animation series called Stop and Go 3-D, which presented films dealing with visual perception and abstraction in relation to time and space. A tandem exhibition curated by the painter Mel Prest, titled Doppler Stop (taking its name from the visual and aural changes brought about by objects in motion), showcased two- and three-dimensional works by many of the artists in Stop and Go 3-D. The contributors hailed from the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, and France, and the exhibition and screenings traveled to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Berlin, and Zagreb. In the catalogue for Doppler Stop, Prest notes that the artists chosen for the show “have created work that optically straddles this un-locatable perceptual space where static objects move and shift or trigger simultaneous sense-readings.”8 The optical art that was big, bright, and splashy in the sixties, mirroring the revolutionary decade that engendered it, has since ripened into an expansive field of shimmering multiplicities and shaded ambiguity. Doppler Shift, curated by Mary Birmingham, is a revisitation, with some variations, of both Doppler Stop and a subsequent exhibition, rechristened Doppler, which was held in 2013 at Parallel Art Space Harold Rosenberg, “The American Action Painters,” Art News 51, no. 8 (1952): 22. Hickey, op.cit., p. 12. 7 Ibid., p. 13. 8 Mel Prest, Doppler Stop (Blurb, 2012), p. 1. 5 6
Published on Sep 22, 2014
Published on Sep 22, 2014
Twenty seven artists from the US and Europe use geometry and color to explore the illusion of difference between two- and three-dimensional...