Resuscitating painting

A collection of works in the Katherine E. Nash Gallery hopes to contend that the painted medium is far from dead

by Andrew Penkalski


What: âÄúPainting ZombiesâÄù exhibition

Where: The Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the Regis Center, 405 21st Ave. S.

When: Now through Dec. 15


Painting is dead. ItâÄôs a long-held notion, but is there any truth to it?

While Jackson PollockâÄôs autographical swirls or Ad ReinhardtâÄôs monochromatic canvases may have been seen as the death rattle of an artistic mode, the rest of the century would concern more ambitious avenues.

From Marcel DuchampâÄòs toilet bowl ready-mades and even up until Damien HirstâÄôs recent astronomically valuable formaldehyde pieces, the art community has thrown in the towel for painting with the general consensus being that âÄúitâÄôs been done.âÄù

But Ryuta Nakajima and Clarence Morgan, co-curators of the Katherine E. Nash GalleryâÄôs new âÄúPainting ZombiesâÄù exhibition, would contend that painting is far from over; that itâÄôs better to think of it as evolving.

Piecing together a collection of works largely from P Factory artists, a nationwide collective with whom Nakajima is directly involved, the University of Minnesota-based exhibition aims to explore the way painting as a technique continues to manifest itself in the wake of postmodern movements.

âÄúPainting has a wonderful way of absorbing change and using it for its own purpose,âÄù said Morgan, who is a University professor in the art department. âÄúI also think that the definition of painting has changed over time.âÄù

The exhibitionâÄôs substantial collection includes a large array of mixed media work, from photography to video to installation. Yet all seem to center around the flourishes of the personal technique of painting.

âÄú[Painting] is conservative. ItâÄôs traditional. The world wants to be progressive and painting wants to hold onto the past,âÄù Morgan said of common critiques of the medium. âÄúPhotography was supposed to put painting in the grave, and it didnâÄôt. Moving pictures and cinema were supposed to put painting in the grave, and [they] didnâÄôt.âÄù

But just as Nam June PaikâÄôs video innovations were closely aligned with his manual, abstract works such as âÄúZen for Head,âÄù the works within âÄúPainting ZombiesâÄù further the significance of this classical mode by elevating intent over material, Nakajima said.

Minneapolis-based artist Andy DucettâÄôs towering installation acts as a grand testament to the almost whimsical fascination with implanting a personal resonance through painting. His grand mish-mash of wood, piping and found objects seemingly rests as a reactionary monument to an all-but-classical approach.

However, the personal trims and manual flourishes function less as ornaments or decorative efforts and more like signatures maintaining his personal attachment to the construction.

âÄú[DucettâÄôs work] is done with this kind of impulsive gestural sensibility,âÄù Morgan said. âÄúPainting is no longer described by the medium of paint but by the sensibility of the person who is actually the practitioner of the art form.âÄù

And that is what is truly fascinating about the Nash galleryâÄôs âÄúPainting ZombiesâÄù exhibition. The first glances and walkthrough of the current gallery hangings may appear somewhat disjointed or unassociated. And the works may ultimately function better as insightful works of the individual artists than a complemented collection. Regardless, when the personal, impulsive and signature-based nature of painting is considered, these works become all the more revealing.