The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, June 2015

The 2014 Whitney Biennial: the Book as a Medium in Contemporary American Art
By Michael Thompson
The Papers of the Bibliographic Society of America
Volume 109:2, June 2015

“Matthew Deleget takes aim, deconstructively, at the history of abstract and minimalist painting in the twentieth century. His deconstruction is both analytical, as in his Whitney piece, and physical. Physically, his strategies include hanging a blank canvas on a gallery wall and then painting it and the adjacent areas of the wall with spray paint, painting with randomly selected colors in a random pattern and, most interestingly, actually destroying a monochromatic canvas, similar to those of Frank Stella and Ad Reinhardt, and displaying the resulting detritus as art. Taking up where Krauss, Kosuth, and Judd leave off, he starts with the final logical extreme of minimalism, a monochromatic painting, and then moves a step beyond it.

His work at the Biennial, called Zero-Sum, was a vitrine containing forty-two monographs from his personal library, all of which were pur- chased at a discount or had been discarded, which to Deleget reflects the shifting tastes of the marketplace for art (see fig. 8).37 The idea came to him when he saw a copy of Circle; International Survey of Constructive Art being used as a doorstop. Eight titles in Zero-Sum are by or about Alfred Jensen (1903–81), one about fellow Biennial artist David Diao (b. 1943), and the rest about contemporary artists exploring minimalist abstraction.

In his own words, through this work he has become “an advocate for artists and ideas that are extraordinary but that are generally overlooked, unfashionable, unmarketable, or, worst, discounted altogether…By thinking of these books as works of art, I’ve brought them back full circle into the realm of ideas and aesthetics.” There is a connection here to his physical destruction of monochromatic paintings, since in each case he addresses the minimalist issues of painting by not creating a painting at all but by moving an existing painting into the realm of what Marcel Duchamp called “the service of the mind.”

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