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In terms of freewheeling, soul-bearing angst, Abstract Expressionism might once seemed to have had the final word. Instead, Abstract Expressionism led to all manner of variations and reactions: second-generation Ab-Exers who lyrically rounded off the movement’s epic impulses; minimalists who discarded turgid gestures for visions of epic materiality; the faux-expressionist paintings by Gerhardt Richter and Sigmar Polke that undermined Ab-Ex’s very aspirations for the epic.
But why obsess about the epic at all? With his seven paintings currently on view at The Painting Center, Thomas Berding steers curiously between all these routes. His ragged, brightly hued abstractions, with their kaleidoscopic designs of brushed and scraped colors, seem inspired by the evocative surfaces of Ab-Ex, and just as sincerely indifferent to its climactic gestures. His vigorous paint handling would do any expressionist proud, but he mostly eschews Ab-Ex’s largesse of rhythm, and even Expressionism’s ambitious physical dimensions, confining himself — at least in this installation — to easel-sized paintings. Masked–off areas and a strategic mixing of oil and Flashe (a matte, vinyl-based paint) suggest sturdy effort and deliberation rather than a passionate struggle; forms tend to circulate intriguingly rather than urgently, as if the artist, stirring together elements of flaming pink, crusty off-whites, and gray-greens, then allowed them to settle like tea leaves. Berding’s process is a unique blend of the immediate and the constrained, the accumulative and the anticlimactic.
The paintings, however, are hardly devoid of rhythmic movement, and the installation handsomely pairs them according to their internal dynamics. The diagonals emerging from the background tapestry of brushstrokes in one canvas mirror the angles in another; the somewhat centripetal rhythms of a third echo those of its neighbor. Viewing them together, one gets a strong sense of a distinct temperament. The reworked surfaces suggest a wry, hard-fought romanticism, less about singular expressions than about the sheer eternal struggle with material paint — an impression confirmed by his titles: “Pie Chart Fanfare,” “Wheel of Misfortune,” “Distraction Machine.” (Like every painting in the exhibition, these three are all dated 2015.)
Has Berding simply taken Ab-Ex’s aesthetic of all-over, enveloping painting to its logical, postmodern extreme? Perhaps. His staccato textures could be said to reflect the rhythms of our time, and its frantic networking and nonstop dissemination of images and ideas. As the press release for the exhibition notes, Berding’s images recall the visual effusions of contemporary technologies: flow charts, screen-based symbols, exploded view diagrams that turn familiar machines into radiating fragments. Every painter belongs to his time; if Jackson Pollock’s canvases suggest an artist circling his own psychic abyss, by comparison Berding’s give the impression of contemplations of a shimmering screen. It’s an intriguing and appropriate approach for our day, when we’re all liable to be healthier, safer, and savvier than Pollock, who was notorious for drinking, brawling, and at one point even urinating in Peggy Guggenheim’s fireplace. But we may still miss that epic impulse.
Thomas Berding: Discard Parade continues at The Painting Center (547 West 27th Street, Suite 500, Chelsea, Manhattan) through May 23.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
In 1850, when Dr. Robert W. Gibbes commissioned J. T. Zealy to make daguerreotypes of persons held in slavery in and around Columbia, South Carolina, for Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz to use in support of his theory that African people were a separate species, daguerreotypes were at the height of fashion.
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.