There it is. I have shown it to you. It has been done. It is being done. And because it can be done, it will be done.
—Kirk Varnedoe, Pictures of Nothing
“The show is over.” Or is it? This exhibition is about abstraction and the end of painting, often proposed but never concluded. Christopher Wool’s statement in paintings, drawings, and billboards, taken from Vasily Rozanov’s nineteenth-century definition of nihilism, contains sufficient irony to suggest that painting itself, the spectacle that surrounds it, and the ultimate questions it poses about life and death, are never quite over.
The negation of painting emerged in Europe after World War II in Francis Picabia’s last paintings, Lucio Fontana’s punctured and slashed Concetto spaziale paintings, Yves Klein’s Fire-Color works, and Piero Manzoni’s quest for neutral materiality in the Achromes. When first exhibited in 1953, Robert Rauschenberg’s White Paintings—monochromatic panel paintings—were unprecedented in their deceptive blankness. These works anticipated diverse interpretations of the neutral picture plane. Gerhard Richter’s paintings of the 1970s, in shades of gray, project a removed, indifferent power. Richard Serra’s Left Corner Horizontal (1977), a dense black expanse of oilstick on linen, produces a physical and spatial void that appears impenetrable.
A shared spirit of negation is evident in the anarchic actions that fueled the urban punk movement, epitomized by Steven Parrino’s physical attacks on the canvas and Kim Gordon’s evanescent wreaths. In Parrino’s Untitled (1992), the anarchist symbol is sprayed in black engine enamel on white vellum. Ed Ruscha’s hermetic painted wordplay reaches cinematic finality with The End paintings, begun in the early 1980s. The silhouettes of Hourglass #4 (1987) and End (1993) are set against gray-spectrum horizons that evoke transitions of time and space.
Seeking new ways to negate or efface the picture plane, artists such as Douglas Gordon, Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Adam McEwen, Albert Oehlen, Richard Prince, and Rudolf Stingel represent sustained challenges to the limits of painting, both real and imagined.
The Show Iis Over continues the thread of Gagosian exhibitions such as Imageless Icons: Abstract Thoughts (2005); Crash (2010); and Malevich and the American Legacy (2011), which trace art-historical themes from the advent of modernism to the present.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Malcolm Bull.
The exhibition includes works by Dan Colen, Willem de Kooning, Jeff Elrod, Lucio Fontana, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Douglas Gordon, Kim Gordon, Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Gregor Hildebrandt, Neil Jenney, Mike Kelley, Yves Klein, Roy Lichtenstein, Nate Lowman, Piero Manzoni, Brice Marden, Adam McEwen, Albert Oehlen, Steven Parrino, Francis Picabia, Sigmar Polke, Richard Prince, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Robert Ryman, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Rudolf Stingel, Blair Thurman, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Christopher Wool, and Richard Wright.
Willem de Kooning
“Things Fall Apart”: Ed Ruscha’s Swiped Words
Lisa Turvey examines the range of effects conveyed by the blurred phrases in recent drawings by the artist, detailing the ways these words in motion evoke the experience of the current moment.
Private Pages Made Public
Megan N. Liberty explores artists’ engagement with notebooks and diaries, thinking through the various meanings that arise when these private ledgers become public.
On Collecting with Norman Diekman
Rare-book expert Douglas Flamm speaks with designer Norman Diekman about his unique collection of books on art and architecture. Diekman describes his first plunge into book collecting, the history behind it, and the way his passion for collecting grew.
Gwen Allen recounts her discovery of cutting-edge artists’ magazines from the 1960s and 1970s and explores the roots and implications of these singular publications.
Rainer Maria Rilke: Duino Elegies
Bobbie Sheng explores the symbiotic relationship between the poet and visual artists of his time and tracks the enduring influence of his poetry on artists working today.
Behind the Art
In an interview with Kay Pallister, the artist explains his relationship to drawing and the importance of time in his site-specific works.
September 29–December 12, 2020
Britannia Street, London