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Painting as an Occult Practice: Philip Taaffe’s Recent Work

There is something subversive about Philip Taaffe’s interest in how information can be preserved and transferred from one medium to another. Since the early 1980s, when he first began gaining attention, he has mastered a wide range of processes — including collage, linocut, woodblock, rubber stamp, silkscreen, marbling and decalomania — to capture images, symbols and signs from various sources and convey them to paper and canvas. Although many discrete steps go into making one of his layered paintings, the collection, preservation and transmission of bits of information are central from start to finish. Through his imaginative repurposing of minor art forms — collage, printmaking, and marbling — Taaffe has dissolved the barriers separating artisanship from painting, effectively redefining the latter.