this last intransigence of modernism


The word ‘blur’ has come up. ‘Richter’s blur’, it is called in the literature. Again, the term may be insufficient. When one gets to the moment in the show when Richter reinvents his ‘blur’ in the context of abstract painting – the two versions of Abstraktes Bild from 1977 are particularly astonishing, and still hard to look at – it is immediately clear how far from a description of what happens in the paintings, and what its effect might be on the viewer, the monosyllable is. Critics have come up with alternatives. In the context of abstraction – that strange episode in art’s endgame – all the suggestions seem charged. Have we to do, for instance, with some kind of deliberate loss of focus or of register? Maybe with a form of willed inaccuracy on the artist’s part. Or even vagueness. This last, it might seem, is very much not a modern art value; though that might mean Richter was right to try to make it one. I like the story Richard Rorty told against himself late in life, when he heard that a philosophy department had just hired someone whose speciality was vagueness, and he raised an eyebrow. ‘Dick, you’re really out of it,’ his host said. ‘Vagueness is huge.’

more from T.J. Clark at the LRB here.