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Painting Is Not Doomed To Repeat Itself

September 24 to October 31, 2015 Curated by John Yau

HOLLI S TAGGART GALLER I ES 521 W 26th Street 7th Floor New York, NY 10001


After the highs of Abstract Expressionism forever altered the state of modern art, each new wave of stylistic innovation and theoretical declaration that washed over the art world in the second half of the twentieth century seemed to announce the death of painting. The ironic hard edges of Pop, the pared-down compositions of Minimalism, the free-for-all expressionism of assemblage and street art, and finally the tongue-incheek homages of 1980s appropriation were interpreted by critics to signal painting’s demise. However, as we illustrate here, painting is far from over, and in fact continues to thrive in the contemporary moment. With this in mind, Hollis Taggart Galleries is pleased to open our new Chelsea space with Painting Is Not Doomed to Repeat Itself, an exhibition that celebrates the diversity of contemporary painting through the work of fourteen artists who are reimagining what it means to be a painter in the twenty-first century. Though they are certainly not without history, these artists rarely, if ever, look to their art historical precedents for aesthetic inspiration and instead turn to the accoutrement of the street, the inner workings of the artist’s psyche, the remnants and reconfigurations of their own past work, and even to investigations of the act of painting itself. The theme chosen by our esteemed guest curator John Yau is essentially the fact that there are no themes, no common threads, or “-isms” in the art world today. Yau has chosen what he calls “real painters” who are “serious and dedicated to their art.” There is no further common ground underlying this exhibition. It yields a revelatory snapshot of today’s art world, from the perspective of a wily and experienced art critic. John Yau has been a delight to work with over the last several months. His discerning eye for both emerging and well-established talent and his unerring sense of the state of the art world are the driving forces behind this exhibition, and we have learned much from him. Of course, our exhibition program is only possible due to the tireless efforts of our gallery staff. I would like to thank Stacey Epstein, Debra Pesci, Martin Friedrichs, Dan Weiner, Kara Spellman, Ashley Park, and Katie Zoni for their fine contributions to this endeavor. Thanks go also to Russell Hassell and Jessie Sentivan for this excellent catalogue. We express our deepest appreciation to Yau for helping us launch our new enterprise, and to all our friends and clients for their encouragement and support. From this beginning we will continue to investigate the themes, both new and old, which have molded and guided our gallery’s mission since 1979, and we hope you enjoy our newest incarnation.

—Hollis Taggart


Painting Is Not Doomed To Repeat Itself

John Yau

During the 1980s, while much of the art world was celebrating the return of painting, as exemplified by Neo-Expressionism, the Transavantgarde and Neo-Geo, it was nearly impossible to read an issue of Artforum without coming across at least one reference to Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.” Borges wrote the story in the form of a review in which the narrator considers Menard’s Quixote, which is completely identical with the original by Cervantes. The primary reason so many critics and theorists cited Borges’ story was to assert that the best one could do in the aftermath of the death of painting and the author was to make copies, which 8

both critiqued and improved upon the original. The argument that there was nowhere to go in painting was hardly a new one. In an interview that was printed in Art News (September 1966), Bruce Glaser, who was talking with Frank Stella and Donald Judd, asked Stella: “Are you implying that you are trying to destroy painting?” This was Stella’s response: It’s just that you can’t go back. It’s not quite a question of destroying anything. If something’s used up, something’s done, something’s over with, what’s the point of getting involved with it? For some, Stella’s answer was a deterrent, a good reason to work in another medium, but for others it became a challenge. As the twentieth century recedes into history’s lengthening shadows, it is apparent that painting wasn’t used up or over with, as the institutionally sanctioned Stella remarked. After Minimalism, painting didn’t die out or become outdated, like the dodo bird or phlogiston. It is also plain that movements and manifestoes, which were a central feature of modernism, along with the many reactions and offshoots it inspired, are less likely to reoccur in this century, which is already fifteen years old. The waning of historical styles, mass movements, and sweeping, often demagogic proclamations, in tandem with the continuing practice of painting, has left many observers confused, especially those who subscribe to the received idea that painting is dead. Nowhere was this confusion more evident than in the exhibition, The Forever Now: Contemporary Art in an Atemporal World at the Museum of Modern Art, the

institution’s first survey of contemporary painting in more than thirty years. According to the show’s corresponding press release, the concept of atemporality is embodied in contemporary art: [. . .] through the reanimating of historical styles or by recreating a contemporary version of them, sampling motifs from across the timeline of 20th-century art in a single painting or across an oeuvre, or by radically paring down an artistic language to its most basic, archetypal form. By exhibition curator Laura Hoptman’s standards, the only choices open to a painter are copying, sampling, or being reductive, all options that were already old hat to artists working in the last half of the twentieth century. This is how Hoptman restated the concept in her catalogue essay: Abstraction is a language primed for becoming a representation of itself, because as much as it resists the attribution of specific meanings, the abstract mark cannot help but carry with it an entire utopian history of modern painting. This is how my colleague Thomas Micchelli judiciously characterized Hoptman’s narrow description of abstraction: Old wine in new bottles, some may say. Others might argue that the Museum of Modern Art is throwing its weight behind a narrow bandwidth of contemporary painting practice, one that revolves around the artwork as a mediated object referencing institutionally sanctioned styles. This footnoted approach fits all too well within the historical narrative that MoMA, despite its best efforts, has never been quite able to shake: that after representation was subsumed into abstraction, and abstraction was reduced to Minimalism, painting could only repeat itself. The “historical narrative” that Micchelli refers to is based on the idea of progress, which is why Hoptman was comfortable linking “the abstract mark” with “utopian history.” In 1966, Stella thought he was the culmination of this narrative, and that in some sense he was the last painter. Within this context, “atemporality” is both a code word for the end of history (and painting) as well as an expression of longing


for the good old days, when movements and styles, such as Minimalism, Color Field painting, Op art, and Pop art, were the rage. Of course, it’s the specter of Abstract Expressionism, “the abstract mark” and the absolute authority of painting’s flat surface that looms behind all of these movements, like a parent you can neither please nor measure up to. If you subscribe to this kind of thinking, which upholds a repressive standard from the past, art can only devolve. The best you can do is to try and become a footnote that passes academic standards. The problem with The Forever Now: Contemporary Art in an Atemporal World was 10

that it was based on three fictitious conclusions. The first is that painting died and is doomed to repeat itself. This puts painting on a clock, which it isn’t. The second is that you can put painting in a box and sign, seal, and deliver it. The third is that the authority of Modernist flatness cannot be challenged, undermined, or undone. None of these finales are true. Painting has not died. It does not fit it neatly into a category, stylistic or otherwise. It remains unruly and unpredictable, as Philip Guston made evident. Instead of looking wistfully at the past, or reanimating a historical style, the artists included in this exhibition are neither obsessed with the “abstract mark” nor looking over their shoulder and “sampling” well-known examples of Modernist flatness. They are not nostalgic for the good old days. They recognize that being heroic is a thing of the past. Rather, they are outliers who found a way to move on without embracing sanctioned options or turning themselves into caricatures. I have selected work by fourteen artists for this exhibition. I have written about the majority of them, in many cases more than once, and certainly have been following their work, often for decades. For the most part they have thrived on the periphery of the flashy art world, working in a way that has nothing to do with approved options and fashionable styles. Recognizing that painting is a slow art, they choose not to look for shortcuts in an age that upholds the quick fix; their independence, commitment, and belief are consummate. Otherwise, they have little in common. Terms such as representation and abstraction seem less relevant with each passing day. Stylistic designations are beside the point. I could try to organize the work I have selected into different, related groups, but this exercise would soon dissolve into incredulity. I could point to affinities, overlaps and echoes, but I trust the viewer can

discover these things as well and many others I have not discerned. This is both the pleasure and adventure of experiencing art; it opens up a space in which one can reflect upon what it means to look. Meaning isn’t just a little pill you swallow in order to become enlightened. Painting isn’t just a parasite clinging to the ankle of greatness. I would go further and say that these artists resist style and branding. Many make uncategorizable hybrid objects. They work in oil, acrylic, and ink. They use brushes, spray cans, and silkscreens. They work on traditional stretched canvas, shaped canvas, multiple panels, and wood that has been cut up into blocks. They span everything from trompe l’oeil to abstraction, from image to language. Instead of narrowing and refining their options, which an earlier generation took care of, they found ways to bring back what had been banished from painting. In the early 1980s, when the art world was celebrating the return of painting and monumental works, one artist continued to work on modestly scaled, store-bought canvas boards; another remained true to depicting what she saw in front of her; and another explored the boundaries and ambient light of the house she and her husband lived in. Undeterred by fashion, they followed their own impulses and preoccupations, which, for one artist, meant studying the technique of marbling, as well as figuring out how to bring it into the domain of painting. They work in Glasgow, Scotland; London, England; Oakland, California; Chicago, Illinois; a rural town miles from Los Angeles, California; various towns and cities in upstate New York and Connecticut. Their work testifies to painting’s resiliency, its ability to morph into something fresh and engaging. And just as it takes time to make, it takes time to look and consider. In their resistance to sanctioned narratives and to aligning themselves with those experts who would have you believe that painting is dead or used up, these artists, in their different ways, channel the wry wisdom of the poet and Museum of Modern art curator Frank O’Hara (1926–66), who said, ”You just go on your nerve.” For these painters, going on your nerve means believing in paint’s potentiality, rather than being ironic or cynical—easy stances to take in turbulent times. It means being heretical and not drinking the Kool-Aid—whatever flavor it comes in—that authorities of one sort or another are always trying to hand out. It means not ceding to others, and choosing to do what you know is necessary, rather than what is easy.



Michael Armitage

(B. 1984)

Armitage uses various modes to pay homage

For an artist who is deeply concerned with

to Africa, and specifically to East Africa. One

contemporary social and political issues, with a

dominant style implements large planes of

vested interest in using art to examine them,

flat color on the support, partially shrouding a

there is a layered philosophical element to his

more detailed background; this is derived from a

use of Lubugo bark cloth. While the material has

kind of tourist painting prevalent in East African

been adopted for use in craft geared towards

markets. His choice of materials—palm leaves,

tourists, its history is deeply rooted in Uganda,

Michael Armitage’s imagery focuses predomi-

various African fabrics, and Lubugo bark cloth—is

and it is used by the Baganda for burial shrouds

nantly on Kenya, the country of his birth.

intrinsic to his paintings. Armitage’s use of various

and ceremonial dress. In this way, Armitage’s

Drawing from both personal as well as national

textures of paint is enhanced by the presence in

use of the material very much mirrors his

and global memory, the artist seeks inspiration

his work of the Lubugo bark, with its natural

simultaneous consideration of past and present.

from Africa’s far reaching mythic past, while

texture that has been pounded, folded, and

Taking a traditional East African material whose

at the same time looking to the current digital

pounded again to create a supple cloth. He first

rich history has been coopted by the tourist

generation and the complications that arise

discovered the fabric in a tourist stall in Nairobi,

trade, Armitage recontextualizes it within his

from participating in it.

where it was used to make placemats and baskets.

own highly personal narrative.

Accident, 2015 Oil on Lubugo bark cloth 67 x 87 inches


Squeak Carnwath

(B. 1947)

Little Girls, 2015 Oil and alkyd on canvas over panel 30 x 30 inches

building blocks in large compositions. She

she calls it, organic materials placed on a

works mainly in a combination of oil and alkyd,

support are changed into something of greater

preferring the incorporation of the latter for

significance through a kind of alchemical

both its flexibility and quick-drying properties.

process. Carnwath considers the artist to

Carnwath’s interest in the ontological

Love, 2014 Oil and alkyd on canvas over panel 70 x 60 inches

be the conduit in the sacred conversion.

differences between painting and sculpture

Her paintings thus provide the viewer with

add a philosophical element to her work.

a closer look at the artist’s exploration of her

Her consideration of a painting’s represen-

“unmediated self.”

tational identity suggests her continued

Carnwath is the recipient of numerous

Squeak Carnwath’s paintings are instantly

engagement with a discourse that began with

awards, including one from the Society for

recognizable, with their cluttered combinations

the emergence of modern painting. The artist’s

the Encouragement of Contemporary Art,

of words, phrases, and aphorisms that are

own spiritual concerns heighten the philosoph-

two fellowships from the National Endowment

often peppered with personal iconographies

ical quality of her work: she considers the act

for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

pulled from the artist’s dreams. Her latest work

of painting to be a process similar to transub-

She is also professor emerita at University

repurposes song titles and lyrics as colorful

stantiation. In this ritualistic “conversion,” as

of California, Berkeley.



Daniel Douke

(B. 1943)

Wanted, 2014 Acrylic on canvas 38 x 20 x 14 inches

Folding Table, 2008 Acrylic on canvas 72 x 30 inches

distilled Stella’s aesthetic, and its stark prioritiz-

Despite taking the shape of real-world

ing of surface stands in contrast to the principles

objects, Douke’s paintings announce them-

underlying the work of such other painters as

selves as just that: paintings. To emphasize

Daniel Douke, who takes the viewer beyond the

this status, Douke insists that his work be

surface and posits that what you believe you see

placed on the floor. This allows the viewer to

is not necessarily what you see.

experience the works in the round, revealing

Douke’s work offers a combination of the

their canvas support and reinforcing their identity as paintings. Douke has turned the

century Dutch breakfast pieces, the trompe-

seriousness of late modernist aesthetic theory

Speaking of his own work at a defining moment

l’oeil skill of quattrocento illusionistic painters,

on its head. His is the stuff of parody. What

for American art in the mid-1960s, Frank Stella

and a reverence towards discarded objects.

appears to be an ordinary wooden crate or

famously said, “what you see is what you see.”

He is at once a master painter and sculptor,

mailbox is, in fact, a precisely executed

At the time of his comments it was the simplest

shaping the support upon which he paints

testament to Douke’s careful consideration

way to communicate a rather complicated idea

to mirror the shape of the object he chooses

of the everyday object and his innovative

about art’s philosophical turn. This statement

to depict.

approach to the painting tradition.


meticulous attention to detail of seventeenth-


Julia Fish

(B. 1950)

Threshold — Matrix : harbour [ spectrum : transposed ] / for E and L, 2014–15

producing there for more than twenty years. While Fish’s work privileges patterned motifs and may appear as something of a

Closer examination reveals where tiles were laid unevenly and where grout stains have set in. These works force the viewer to truly look,

Transfer chalk and oil on canvas

De Stijl abstraction rendered in the subtle

to sharpen his or her perception, noticing the

30 x 70 inches

tonalities of an Agnes Martin, her work is, in

way in which light affects the surface of the

fact, always representational. It is made up

most quotidian fixtures of everyday life. Fish’s

of nearly endless intimate examinations of

paintings thus manifest as both a lesson in

Oil on canvas

the space in which she lives, a practice she

looking and a lesson in living. Her paintings are

32 ½ x 32 ¾ inches

describes as “archival.”

marked with a curiosity and attention akin to a

Living Rooms : SouthEast — Two, with lights, action, 2003–05

Julia Fish’s work is about the displacement

traveller embarking on foreign journey. Fish’s paintings assert their value as more

Since the early 1990s, Julia Fish has kept her

and reorganization of space. It challenges

home and studio in a ninety year old former

our idea of appropriate spatial relationships,

than mere representations of domestic surfaces.

storefront located at 1614 North Hermitage

where the ground belongs on the ground,

Their subtle illusionism belies their status as

Avenue in Chicago. The specificity of this

not hanging on the wall. What might first

objects qua objects, as they maintain their

address is significant given the corresponding

appear to be a minimalist painting of a grid

identity as things existing in this world, not

specificity of the art that Fish has been

is actually a detailed section of a tiled floor.

merely as representational images of this world.



Brenda Goodman

(B. 1943)

Brush, 2013 Oil on wood 32 x 48 inches

behind, and thin glazes, a slightly veiled self.

When faced with the imagery, the viewer is

Goodman’s work is set apart as she commands

compelled to confront life, death, and the

the support as stomping ground for unapolo-

vulnerability of the human body. Using both

getic self-examination and presentation. Goodman makes use of both traditional and

Untitled a1, 2012

realistic and abstracted humanoid forms, she sheds light on these events and the

non-traditional tools such as palette knives,

emotions that are tied to them. While never

cake decorating tubes, and ice picks, combining

setting out to address universal issues, her

their uses on wood or paper with admixtures

deeply sensitive paintings nevertheless

of non-traditional materials in oil paint. The

resonate, giving the viewer a sense of

Deeply concerned with personal represen-

tactility of the medium forces a visceral

Goodman’s personal grappling with the

tation and reflection, Brenda Goodman

reaction in the viewer, rendering materiality a

weight of human experience.

presents a scatological worldview in her

key to the success of the individual paintings.

Oil on wood 72 x 72 inches

paintings through her incorporation of organs

While personal and deeply expressionistic,

Goodman is a Detroit-born artist who currently lives and works in Pine Hill, New

and excess. Through her own keen self-

the works affect the viewer psychologically,

York. She is the recipient of several grants

awareness, the artist uses the materiality of

placing them in touch with the core—and often

including two New York Foundation for the Arts

paint as a metaphor for different represen-

scarring—events of Goodman’s personal life.

Fellowships and The National Endowment for

tations of the self. Paint applied in thick

The artist herself has suggested that her work

the Arts. Her work is included in several perma-

impasto could represent something to hide

toes the line between “humor and horror.”

nent collections throughout the United States.



Merlin James

(B. 1960)

Two Trees and Water, 2012–13 Oil on canvas

of the quotidian, James seems to acknowledge

way, rallying against the preciousness of

its ephemerality and ultimate dissolution.

traditional painting practice, viewing, and study,

In James’s paintings, the support could be

by creating work that evades the “necessary”

literally skewed—bowed is more accurate—in

elements of painting as a high art form. A frame

order to skew the viewer’s perception of the

only exists for the most pragmatic structural

background’s place in the greater history of art.

purposes. He rarely cedes to the decorative

Landscapes and genre scenes are scrubbed and

component most often aligned with a frame’s

partially dissolved, leaving thick daubs of paint

utility. This is James’s way of loudly signaling

Capriccio, 2014

in some places and faint washes of color in

the disillusionment of traditional art-historical

Acrylic fabric, wood frame, acrylic paint

others. James’s paintings tend to look damaged,

discourse and the way in which painting is

41 x 31 inches

besmirched. In other works, a nylon material

still displayed in many institutional settings.

akin to ladies’ stockings forms a scrim, partially

In his reverse collage and the burning and

The subject matter of Merlin James’s painting is

obscuring the painting or shadow box behind it,

distressing of his canvases, James both literally

satisfying in its simplicity—beautiful banalities

suggesting that the way that we engage with

and metaphorically pokes holes in traditional

of sea and landscape, genre scenes, and other

art might be similarly dubious.

forms of painterly practice, thereby reframing

16 ⅞ x 23 ¼ inches

Red, 2013–14 Acrylic on fabric 17 ½ x 26 ½ inches

prosaic subjects. It is attractive because it is familiar. However, in his nod to our appreciation


For James, any leaning towards traditional fine art motifs is turned on its head. He is, in a

the way that art has historically been received and appreciated.


Joshua Marsh

His subject matter is narrow—he focuses on

nuclear glow radiating off of his oil paintings

domestic objects like dustpans, a turned over

has been likened to the light of a television

pitcher, or a single thong sandal, rather than

screen, an x-ray machine, and even the TSA

the vast American landscape—but his treatment

screening devices we have all become familiar

of those subjects harkens back to the Luminists’

with at the airport. The use of aggressive

sense of the sublime. Marsh’s subject matter

hothouse colors not only gives his paintings

remains banal in order to keep the viewer’s

a thoroughly modern edge, but it also gives

attention on his real aim: the examination and

the mundane objects a ghostly aura. There is a

exploitation, even, of light and its effects on

sense of voyeurism in viewing these paintings

The American Luminists, an offshoot of the Hudson

form. Like his nineteenth-century forebears,

that is difficult to pin-point. Perhaps it is in the

River School, were interested in the sublime

Marsh focuses on the underappreciated, shedding

recognizable silhouette of those TSA machines,

effects of light on the American landscape,

light on light as the ultimate subject matter.

or maybe the sinister glow of a colored window in

(B. 1973)

Dust, 2015 Oil on panel 15 x 18 inches

Thus Gone, 2015 Oil on panel 22 x 20 inches

emphasizing clarity and tranquility through nearly

The post-modern twist found in Marsh’s own

an unsavory neighborhood. Either way, his work

invisible brushstrokes. Joshua Marsh’s work can

brand of Luminism is his use of technological

resists strict categorization, maintaining an

be understood as that of a post-modern Luminist.

light rather than sunlight. The sort of post-

allure that is at once ethereal and haunting.



Catherine Murphy

(B. 1946)

Moire Chair, 1991 Oil on canvas 40 x 46 inches

Red Pages, 2003 Oil on canvas 60 x 60 inches

Catherine Murphy is a realist painter whose particular choice of subject matter is enriched

light on that which exists right under our noses. Murphy’s subject matter is never precious.

what otherwise might go unnoticed. Her work confronts the limitations of the photograph,

She is drawn to surface in the same way as

which is only able to snap what exists within the

other photorealist painters, but her snippings

picture field at a single moment. She has been

of hair left in the flooded sink or words drawn

known to allow multiple moments and an excess

with fingers on a frosty window carry more

of time to coexist in a single composition in

allure than something considered conven-

order to achieve the most successful painting.

tionally interesting. Her work is observational

Murphy was the recipient of the Robert

and honest, and she has a knack for closely

De Niro, Sr. Prize in 2014, and her work is

looking at the overlooked.

included in the permanent collections of the

Murphy has argued that she is not obsessed

Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian

by her close observation of quotidian tableaux.

with form per se; she never paints the same

American Art Museum, and the Museum of

While the work of her predecessors and

things twice. Rather, as she explains, her work

Modern Art, among many others. She was

contemporaries in the genre explores the most

is meant to “slow things down.” Even if her

awarded two National Endowment for the Arts

irresistible, punchiest of surfaces (the perfect

paintings take years to complete (which they

grants—in 1979 and 1989—and a Guggenheim

raindrop, faces of well known celebrities, jars

often do), they manage to capture a cluster

Fellowship, and she is a member of the

of sticky candies), Murphy is compelled to shed

of moments in one image, suspending in time

American Academy of Arts and Letters.



Thomas Nozkowski

(B. 1944)

Untitled (9-48), 2015 Oil on linen on panel 22 x 28 inches

Untitled (7-95), 1997 Oil on linen on panel 16 x 20 inches

Angelo Ippolito. However, his most recog-

still shows pangs of his early systemic

nizable work is small in scale and marked

paintings dating from the 1960s, themes

by distinct whimsy, both ways in which he

of which are visible in his consistent decon-

deviates from his painterly predecessors.

struction of the grid and other patterns.

And while it has taken him up to fifteen

Although a critically acclaimed artist, the

years to finish a single painting, he never

general consensus is that Nozkowski’s work

becomes preoccupied with the arduous

resists any stylistic category.

painterly process. Instead, his approach is

Born in 1944 in Teaneck, New Jersey,

Untitled (3-67), 1980

rather reductive. Often, he scrapes or scours

Nozkowski received his B.F.A. from the

Oil on canvas board

the painting’s surface after already having

Cooper Union in New York in 1967. He currently

16 x 20 inches

applied paint in extremely thin layers.

teaches at The Mason Gross School of Art

Nozkowski’s work is characterized by an

at Rutgers University in New Jersey. His work

Thomas Nozkowski is best known for paintings

idiosyncratic use of color, playful line, and

is housed in several esteemed permanent

done on an intimate scale on pre-stretched

quirky use of shape. He is influenced by the

collections in the United States that include

canvases, his trademark since 1974. The artist

everyday, seeing even the most mundane

the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum

was a student of the Abstract Expressionists,

objects or events as having potential as a

of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago,

including Nick Marsicano, David Lund, and

source of inspiration. His more recent work

among others.



Cordy Ryman

Cordy Ryman’s proclivity for collecting found

The mark of his hand and the past life of

objects and salvaged scraps has informed his

all of the components of a piece are integral

body of work since the 1990s. Producing both

in Ryman’s art-making, giving his work a

site-specific sculptures as well as hybrid

rough-hewn quality that calls more attention

painting/sculptures, Ryman’s attention to the

to materiality and process than anything

integrity of the medium leans towards a kind of

else. Despite the incorporation of unfinished

Cream Moon Horizon, 2014

reverence. While the work nods to both his

industrial materials, the work never feels

Encaustic on wood

abstract and minimalist forebears, his magpie

macho, lacking both in the high-gloss factory-

ways set him apart. In discussing his work, he

finish of 1960s Minimalist sculpture and the

Recon Figured 13, 2010

constantly incants the idea of a “life-force”

bloviatism of their makers. Instead, Ryman’s

Enamel on wood

exuded from particular materials and their

work maintains a playfulness, and often a

14 ¾ x 12 x 1 ¾ inches

corresponding “needs.” This partially explains

sense of humor that is more slapdash than concerned with strident formalism.

(B. 1971)

56 Special, 2015 Acrylic and enamel on wood 9 x 8 ¾ x 4 inches Opposite, clockwise from top left:

4 ¾ x 3 ½ x 1 ½ inches

Eye of Jupiter, 2014

the artist’s consummate recycling, even making

Encaustic on wood

use of elements from past installation pieces.

6 x 6 x 1 inches

For as much as Ryman discusses giving life to

and internationally. His work is included in a

his materials, he seems particularly concerned

number of private and public collections, as

Encaustic on wood

with providing each with the best life, which may

well as in a large public commission at Michigan

7 x 6 ¾ x 1 ½ inches

not be granted until the second time around.

State University.

Cross Facts, 2014


Ryman has exhibited widely both nationally


Philip Taaffe

(B. 1955)

Ophiuran, Prismatic, 2014 Mixed media on canvas 76 ½ x 70 inches

Double Calligraphic Fountain, 2002 Oil on paper mounted on canvas 81 ½ x 54 ½ inches

gouache, and collage chine-collé. This rich

his own fusion of ancient myth and post-

process is part of what makes Taaffe’s

modern flair that the paintings can be

work exceptional. Although there is certain

meditative, complex, and deeply challenging.

“vocabulary,” so to speak, that is recognizable

Taaffe finds inspiration in all forms of

in most of his work, his “grammar” is wholly

religious, mystical, and occult practice.

his own.

Islamic arabesque—a geometric patterning

The works are predicated on the super-

of natural forms—could be laid upon his

imposition of multiple layers of medium and

handmade marbled paper, a technique that

imagery. The viewer is at once seduced by

most likely originated in China during the Tang

Philip Taaffe’s recent paintings are an

the familiarity of something in the painting,

dynasty. Other paintings incorporate distinct

exercise in various tensions, adding as much

then upon closer inspection is lured into

properties of ancient Greek mythology and

layered meaning to each individual work

its complexity. Taaffe’s work introduces

Meso-American religion. His access to, and

as there are layers of artistic process and

imagery from both the celestial sphere and

grasp of, arcane and esoteric knowledge of

materials. His materials include, but are not

its opposing, underworld counterpart. He

both near and far-off lands is staggering,

limited to, linocut, the use of rubber stamps,

weds the worlds of Eastern mysticism with

and his layering of these historical opticalities

silkscreening, stenciling, watercolor and

Western philosophy, the sacred with the

leads to a psychedelic synesthesia apt for

gold leaf, acrylic, enamel, paper marbling,

profane, and vitality with mortality. It is in

the twenty-first century.



Barbara Takenaga

(B. 1949)

Falling (black tracings), 2014 Acrylic on wood panel

obvious brushstrokes that call attention to

appears to explore three different realms—

the artist’s hand or process.

the celestial, the terrestrial, and one invisible

Takenaga’s purported antecedents span

to the human eye: the molecular. A single

from Buddhist mandalas to Op art to the

painting could call to mind photographs of

psychedelic posters of John Van Hamersveld.

galaxies or retro-futuristic images of the

However, Takenaga is indeed a Visionary

space age, the sporangia one encounters on

painter in her own right. Since the 1970s

the back of a fern, or the thousand-times

she has consistently created paintings with

magnification of a human cell. The wedding

themes that transcend this physical world

of these worlds in one finite space at once

Before fully embarking on a career as a painter,

and challenge the viewer’s complacency

feels expository, yet at the same time

Barbara Takenaga trained as a printmaker.

of perception, thus aligning her with other

transcendent. The viewer becomes lost in the

This experience is revealed in her paintings

contemporary Visionary artists.

vortex-like fields produced from Takenaga’s

24 x 30 inches

Red Geode, 2015 Acrylic on wood panel 24 x 20 inches

imagination. Their opticality challenges one’s

through a keen precision of line and finish that

Takenaga’s work goes beyond the limits

call to mind the formal qualities of a traditional

of portraying dizzying patterns and optical

perception of a two-dimensional field, creating

print. Her painstaking application of paint

illusions. While she does not often mimic

a distinct experience for the viewer: one of

on the canvas is finessed to the point that it

nature directly, her imagery draws from reality

movement, one of illusion, and perhaps one

possesses a streamlined finish, lacking any

while remaining mostly abstract. Her work

of hypnotism.



Wendy White

(B. 1971)

Bollé, 2015 Acrylic on canvas, custom gold mirrored PVC frame 29 x 21 ½ inches

Strolz, 2015 Acrylic on canvas, custom gold mirrored PVC frame

her comparison between the life of the athlete

White’s body of work is also a commentary

and the life of the artist, part of White’s astute

on the limitations of traditional paintings on

observation about the hard-won and often

canvas. Not only does she use a variety of non-

short professional lives of people in physically

paint materials—custom fabricated Plexiglas

and emotionally taxing careers.

and PVC frames, rugs, and wood—she also

Many of White’s recent paintings begin

undermines traditional modes of display. Some

with color photographs, which she drains of

works sit on the floor and lean against the wall.

their color, prints on a large scale, and then

They are placed upon their own hand-painted

Ice, 2013

eventually paints over. The characteristic

rugs, which speak as much to domesticity,

Acrylic on canvas, wood and enamel artist’s frame

“fogginess” of her paintings calls to mind the

offering some kind of comforting invitation

98 ½ x 76 ½ inches

white residue on the window of a recently

into their space, as they do to White’s cool

closed shop; a “For Rent” sign would not feel

rebellion. Her mirror paintings assign the

Wendy White’s work is most preoccupied with

entirely out of place. This furthers White’s

actual mirrored surface to the painting’s frame,

the lifespan of seemingly dissonant places,

pointed remark on the ephemerality of things;

in direct reaction against the way that we are

people, and things, all of which are bound by

when she paints a soapy wash over a well-

used to looking at things. Their frames often

the same sense of impermanence and eventual

known photograph of a famous athlete, she

feature the bulbous evidence of a drip at their

decay. She considers a deli in Chinatown—here

seems to be saying that this newsworthy

corner, like the swollen bases of old glass

today and gone tomorrow—and the consequent

moment and the physical vitality of this athlete

windows, signaling, again, an erosion and a

graffiti on the building’s surface. Then there is

will, too, eventually “go out of business.”

sense of impermanence.

29 x 21 ½ inches



Jack Whitten

(B. 1939)

Ode To Jake, 2013 Acrylic on canvas 12 x 9 x 1 inches

time at Washington Square’s famed Cedar

something of Andy Warhol’s silkscreens, and

Tavern, brushing shoulders with American

predating Gerhard Richter’s own squeegee

Abstract Expressionism’s cognoscenti:

paintings by more than a decade.

Rothko, Pollock, de Kooning, and Kline. “Gesture,” “process,” and many other

Space Sifter, 2014

Whitten continues to explore options beyond the paintbrush, challenging the

argot commonly associated with the Abstract

boundaries of paint’s materiality and

Expressionists also apply to Whitten’s work.

complicating the traditional hierarchy of

However, for him, process informs the many

fine art materials. His works are built up

ways in which acrylic paint can be manipulated

with as many as twenty-five layers, and

Jack Whitten has said himself that he does not

as a medium. He has done everything from

caption information often includes the

paint paintings, but rather, he makes them.

boiling paint to freezing it, grinding it,

depth of the piece, which can measure as

Growing up in segregated Alabama, Whitten

laminating it, sanding it, and chiseling it. Paint

much as three-quarters of an inch thick.

attended the Tuskegee Institute as a pre-med

is cast into molds, made into tesserae, and then

That is to say that Whitten is most interested

student for one year, then Southern University,

used to make mosaics. He sometimes presses it

in exploring the plastic qualities of the

later moving to New York City in 1959 to study

through thin material with a squeegee-like

material, and his “paintings” hover in some

art at the Cooper Union. In the city, he spent

device he calls “the developer,” recalling

liminal space between painting and sculpture.

Acrylic on panel 16 x 20 inches



This catalogue has been published on the occasion of the exhibition “Painting Is Not Doomed to Repeat Itself,” organized by Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York, and presented from September 24 to October 31, 2015. ISBN: 9780988913981 Front cover: Merlin James, Capriccio, 2014. Frontispiece: Squeak Carnwath, Love, 2014 (detail). Pages 4–5: Catherine Murphy, Red Pages, 2003 (detail). Page 6: Philip Taaffe, Ophiuran, Prismatic, 2014 (detail). Back cover: Barbara Takenaga, Red Geode, 2015. Publication copyright © 2015 Hollis Taggart Galleries Essay © John Yau All rights reserved Hollis Taggart Galleries 521 West 26th Street 7th Floor New York, NY 10001 Tel 212 628 4000 Fax 212 570 5786 www.hollistaggart.com Reproduction of contents prohibited Catalogue production: Jessie Sentivan Design: Russell Hassell, New York Printing: Puritan Capital, Hollis, N.H. PHOTOGRAPH AND REPRODUCTION CREDITS

p. 13: Courtesy

of CIRCA 1881, © Michael Armitage, photo © White Cube (George Darrell); p. 14: Courtesy of the artist, photo by M. Lee Fatherree; p. 15: Courtesy of the artist and James Harris Gallery, photo by M. Lee Fatherree; pp. 16–17: Courtesy of the artist, © 2015 Philipp Scholz Rittermann; pp. 18–19: Courtesy of the artist and David Nolan Gallery, photo by Tom Van Eynde; pp. 20–21: Courtesy of Brenda Goodman and Life on Mars Gallery; pp. 22–23: Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York; pp. 24–25: Courtesy of Jeff Bailey Gallery, photo by Brilliant Studio; pp. 26–27: Courtesy of Peter Freeman, Inc., photo by Nicholas Knight; p. 28: Photo by Tom Barratt, courtesy of Pace Gallery; p. 29 (top): Photo by Kerry Ryan McFate, courtesy of Pace Gallery; p. 29 (bottom): Photo courtesy of Pace Gallery; pp. 30–31: Courtesy of the artist and Zürcher Gallery, New York; pp. 32–33: © Philip Taaffe; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, photo by Jean Vong; p. 34: Courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York, photo by Jean Vong, 2015; p. 35: Courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York, photo by Joshua Nefsky; p. 36: Courtesy of the artist; p. 37: Courtesy of the artist, photo by Robert Banat; pp. 38–39: Courtesy of the artist, Alexander Gray Associates, New York and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp, photo by John Berens

HOLLI S TAGGART GALLER I ES Chelsea 521 W 26th Street 7th Floor NY, NY 10001

Private Viewing 18 E 64th Street 3F NY, NY 10065

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Painting is Not Doomed to Repeat Itself  

Essay by John Yau. Published on the occasion of the exhibition "Painting is Not Doomed to Repeat Itself" held at Hollis Taggart Galleries fr...

Painting is Not Doomed to Repeat Itself  

Essay by John Yau. Published on the occasion of the exhibition "Painting is Not Doomed to Repeat Itself" held at Hollis Taggart Galleries fr...