After last week's grad school and residency application rejections, I found this essay of Charlene von Heyl's work, seeming like another recent preference for abstraction and deliberate avoidance of figuration/ornamentation, while still a great essay about painting:
"not so much meaning as being...an over achieving desire to invent something that has not yet been seen; a refusal to rely on the existing visual world, to surprise not only the viewer but first of all herself...a wilfully isolated practice, a monologue that continues in the face of information streams and image overload, regardless of dissenting or disbelieving noises around it...no single meaning but invades our reality with what the artist has called ‘existential surplus value.’...The fluidity of image making, in all its banality, is thematized while the chance decisions involved in von Heyl’s abstract painting practice are extrapolated and literalized...‘The work of art must offer a resistance to the spectator’s fantasy, a check as well as a stimulus’, wrote Sylvester; ‘in non-figurative art, it is the reality, the presence, of the painting itself that has to fulfil this function.’8 "
Also, in Donald Kuspet's review of Steven Assael's figurative painting:
"I think art justifies its existence -- becomes serious rather than just another shallow and transiently charismatic cultural phenomenon -- when it helps us intuit them: invokes, as it were, the esthetic, existential, human realities "latent" in appearances. I suggest that naïve realism is insufficiently artful and thus comparatively insignificant, however undoubtedly "interesting" it is to bring some physical particular into objective focus, that is, seeing it for what it apparently -- but never really -- is. Naïve realist works are not completely memorable, because they lack the universal esthetic, existential and human interest that would give them lasting value, allowing us to return to them -- re-engage them with yet another look -- without becoming bored. Realists whose works successfully integrate esthetics, existentialism and humanism, with no loss of observational acumen -- respect for the material facts -- are "ultimate realists." Steven Assael aspires to be one; a few works convince me that he is one...Assael struggles to integrate traditional and modernist ideas of art, but he also keeps them apart, inviting us to compare and cross-examine them: Which is esthetically better, which is more existentially meaningful, which gets the gist of the human more convincingly?...Perhaps Assael’s most convincing marriage of modernist abstraction and traditionalist imagery are in his extraordinary drawings -- pure perceptual, esthetic and psychodramatic epiphanies."