mucking around with paint can also be a way to get at visual reality


Does anyone call him or herself an Expressionist these days? The bloviated gigantism of the “Neo” 80’s finished off, deliberately no doubt, what the cool reactions of the 60’s and 70’s had started, and the word “Expressionist”––also its variants: ism, istic, big E, small e––can hardly be handled thereafter without the smirking forceps of quotation marks. But these terms were once indispensable, and maybe enough time has passed for the restoration of their nuance. The best painters of the day, after all, have generally been expressionists, at least for a time. (An all-star roster would start with Titian––older and in a hurry––run through late Goya and early Cezanne, and end with de Kooning and Guston. This skeleton line-up can be filled out according to taste and emphasis.) Expressionism has always entailed an alchemical negation of technique, per se, but what was forgotten in the extremity of rhetoric that blossomed like catbriers around the New York School (and has been with us ever since) was how mucking around with paint could also be a way to get at visual reality––a more convincing way, potentially, than even the most transcendent design or optics. Vermeer’s rooms are unsurpassably alive but his people, even those half dozen that seem charged with thought, have several fewer dimensions than a Rembrandt self-portrait with its skin that is paint that is skin. Rembrandt’s lopsided 350 year-old eyes, helter-skelter paint ridges and all, look right into yours.

more from Artcritical here.