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The transvanguard, accepting the implicit guidelines of postmodernism, has exercised with its cultural actions a willingness to anti-manifiesto, a denial of the previous conventions, in part very much in line with what Paz called the tradition of rupture; yes, ‘ma non troppo’. We would like to consider this attitude itself as a manifesto, replicated by each of the chorus voices in exhibitions of recent years, such as Ana Maria Guasch in her polyanthea titled ‘Manifestos of Postmodern Art’, where perhaps is just assuming the concept of manifesto more as as a definition than as full stop, even when what is defined is also a rupture (at least apparent). Or perhaps this anthology of correctly selected critical texts was the prediction of an agonizing situation trying to emerge from a curious Rappel à l’ordre, which in fact occurs at a time of the same historical vanguards, but then opened different roads.
Postmodernism has been weakened by exhaustion, boredom even, perhaps because it had inherited a weakened sense of loss and had already been exhibited all possible penance. In fact, many of the texts of the anthology to which I referred to (including all between 1980 and 1995) agree in what has been going on in recent years: the return from the painting to painting.
For a significant part of critics this return to painting coincides with the much-heralded death of postmodernism. Many funerals have been officiated and perhaps the most ceremonious was held at the Victoria & Albert Museum with its “Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990” five years ago.
And now what? For now, says Barbara Rose, ‘Painting after postmodernism’, a manifesto in the form of exhibition that postulates a return to the fullness of painting as one of the great arts, with attention to its tangible nature, the importance of drawing, and the inclusion of new techniques and materials towards this goal that simultaneously represents a new starting point.
Painting after postmodernism (Belgium-USA) starts by questioning the echo of those Duchamp words declaring the death of painting, because, as this exhibition’s discourse reminds us, Picasso, Miro, Matisse, or the school of New York never left it. During the sixties and seventies this death was re-enacted: as a conception of painting as associated with bourgeois tastes there was an attempt to show its exhaustion; and conceptual art, video, mixed media and installations prevailed. Painting, following Greenberg’s postulates, should be reduced to the optical impression and in it, metaphoric content should not be allowed or, even less, the presence of the figurative. There were those who a few years later rebutted, with descriptive will, postmodernist manifestations. Among them, Achille Bonito Oliva, Peter Burger and Frederick Jameson, who pointed together at the presence of pastiche in the aesthetic of the moment.
Barbara Rose assumes this period as exhausted (postmodernism) exemplifying this exhaustion in the return to painting alluded to earlier. With this intention, to propose a manifesto of the new times, the patron and philanthropist Roberto Polo, with various Belgian government institutions, has promoted this exhibition that is really the incardination of 16 individual shows of eight Belgian artists and eight Americans, a total of 250 paintings to defend that painting is more alive than ever. The sites chosen are the Vanderborght building and The Underground at Cinéma Galeries in Brussels. The American artists are: Walter Darby Bannard, Karen Gunderson, Martin Kline, Melissa Kretschmer, Louis Lane, Paul Manes, Ed Moses and Larry Poons. And the Belgians: Mil Ceulemans, Joris Ghekiere, Bernard Gilbert, Marc Maet, Werner Mannaers, Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Bart Vandevijvere and Jan Vanriet.
The exhibition, inaugurated on September 15, will remain open until November 13
As we can see in this list of artists, there is no intention of introducing young painters who advocate for a new art, since it would mean just the opposite to the spirit of this exhibition. Let’s recall, for example, that Larry Poons was born in 1937, and Walter Darby Bannard in 1934 or Ed Moses in 1926. It is not about discovery, but about overcoming a situation: painting after postmodernism, so exhausted after giving so much of itself that it gave rise to ‘the new art is becoming old’ phrase.