What is the framework for discussing abstract painting in 2017? Is it modernism; art history; conceptual art; contemporary art; national or regional boundaries? All of these or none of them? What would happen if all those frameworks were questioned concurrently? How could such an enquiry be navigated through the terrain of the twentieth century and beyond?
By taking a selection of paintings by Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian, Jacob Bendien, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Kazimir Malevich, John Power, Hans Hartung, Asger Jørn, Karel Appel, Olle Bærtling, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Gene Davis, Frank Stella, Wendy Paramor and Vernon Treweeke made between 1906-1969 as a starting point for a speculative, retrospective enquiry that interprets not only these artists’ reception in art history, but the broader development of twentieth century art, this document realigns artistic judgment and conventional nomenclatures and classifications in order to place the idea of the artist and the artwork above their attendant histories and theories.
It revisits the artistic avant garde in Paris and the artists engaged with the burgeoning possibilities for freedom from conventional strictures that led to the dissolution of the reliance on an object or model. By 1912 this convention had been destroyed, followed by other conventions, in order to make or constitute a new kind of painting that defied previous knowledge or viewing conditions: abstract painting. Here the artists Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp whose legacies currently offer the most radical intellectual possibilities for freedom and abstraction in art are reassessed in order to understand the potential for what ‘abstract painting’ can and could do.