It would be easy to talk about ‘the death of painting’ in the sense that
- nobody cares about it any more
- the historical momentum that propelled its development forward from Cimabue and Giotto on down is spent
- photography has made it irrelevant
- long-term investment has eaten the previous understanding of a painting’s value (i.e. the physical evidence of a brilliant artist’s self-transcendence) and shit out a new kind of value, precisely determined by market forces and counted in dollars
- academic painting has turned the representation of reality thru paint into such a solved game that almost any idiot who can draw can be taught to paint
but these are all easy answers.
Orozco (J.C., not Gabriel) has a line in his memoirs that’s something like,
Everything should be done against the grain and against the current. And if some moron advocates a solution that would do away with difficulties, we must crush him no matter what the cost, for civilization itself is at stake!
I think that’s basically right. Civilization or human progress or whatever you want to call it is not indexed by benefits, but by difficulties. This means that what we conventionally call ‘landmarks of development,’ like photography or higher education or modern medicine are in fact most valuable to us when we come to the edge of their power and are forced to confront the same old problems all over again.
Painting, dead or not, has a pretty spectacular batting average when it comes to depicting the fixed stars that shine down on all progress.
What are you?
- The difficulty of painting someone’s portrait implies something about the the difficulty of representing a person, and this in turn implies something about how deep or profound people are. E.g. the hundred and twenty hours that Hockney sat for Lucian Freud.
- And tho every selfie is a knife looking for this question’s heart, it’s never gonna reach it.
What’s the difference between going to school and learning something?
- In the early 1930’s the Rockefellers paid Orozco around $7,000 to come to Dartmouth College, and he painted an answer to that question.
You’re going to die, so what’s the point?
- In 1562 Peter Bruegel paints The Triumph of Death. In the very, very back of the painting, beyond the dog eating a child’s face, beyond the weeping tree where a man has been hung from a fork by a nail through his neck, just past the three crucified bodies that have been set on fire, there are two skeletons. They are standing on a cliff, arm in arm, and one of them gestures appreciatively towards the sea.
Lazenby laying it down.
Danny Devito evolves into Bob Hoskins for his fight against Charizard.
Just sayin, this is pretty much the plot of Super Marios Bros. (1993)