Nexus, veil: Robert Ryman and the equivocal spaces of abstraction

Virgoe, April (2021) Nexus, veil: Robert Ryman and the equivocal spaces of abstraction. Journal of Contemporary Painting, 7 (1). pp. 39-59. ISSN 2052-6695

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It is now understood that the two great defining points in the history of western painting ‐ the emergence of illusory space in the Quattrocento and its disavowal in the mid-twentieth century ‐ represent significant shifts in a perpetual tide in which pictorial space is re-invented. Outside of modernist teleology, the ‘abstract’ in painting is a malleable term, denoting a tendency, or a move away from, rather than a polemic against depiction. How productively, then, can notions of pictorial space be mapped between ‘abstraction’ and ‘figuration’? In this article, I focus on the work of the American painter Robert Ryman (1930‐2019). Ryman defined his work as ‘realist’ and deployed a materialism that foregrounded the processes of painting. His paintings are both disarmingly simple and spatially complex, and, despite his disavowal of illusion, this complexity is, paradoxically, concerned with the production of pictorial space. I bring together two texts, Hubert Damisch’s A Theory of /Cloud/ and Hanneke Grootenboer’s The Rhetoric of Perspective, to address the complex and contradictory spaces in Ryman’s paintings and to suggest that they enter into a negotiation with a perspective that is something very different to a rebuttal. To look at Ryman again in this way is to offer a rethinking of the paradoxical spaces of abstract painting, its past and its present.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Damisch, Grootenboer, Ryman, cloud, painterly, perspective, surface
Faculty: Faculty of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2022 09:30
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2022 09:30

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