The persistence of painting in contemporary art makes it increasingly difficult to think of the medium as an artistically obsolete or socially irrelevant act. While this remark may seem absurd to both casual and serious observers of art, painting has suffered numerous “deaths” at the hands of artists, critics, and historians alike over the past 150 years, and yet, it still persists. Once again painting appears to engender communicative, expressive, sexual, and informative traits that no other medium or expression can replace or fulfill. Consequently, there is a renewed commitment to and faith in painting among contemporary artists and a renewed interest in it among their audience that can only be described in general terms as something human. Despite the advent of photography, the reductive reign of Modernism, the influence of popular culture, and the strain of media technology on art, painting persists. As a historically grounded object and an anthropologically expressive act, it continues to be beautiful and meaningful, relevant to human life, and emblematic of both personal and social knowledge and experience.
James Yood will present a brief hisory of painting’s numerous deaths and resurrections ove the last 150 years: since the advent of photography, through the reductive (and destructive) reign of Modernism, and into our present, post-industrial information age. Mr. Yood will discuss his theories on why and how artists continue to make paintings, what sort of spiritual inspirations, philosophical thoughts, and/or material urges they might share with their viewers and society.
James Yood is a professor of Art History at Northwestern University. He is also the Chicago correspondent for Artforum magazine, New York, and for five years was the Chicago Editor of New Art Examiner magazine.