Matthew Bowman, University of Suffolk, email@example.com
Since the important As Painting exhibition held at the Wexner in 2001, there has been a growing reassessment of various currents of French painting that developed in the 1960s and 1970s. Collectives such as Supports/Surfaces and JANAPA have become better understood, as have the formative role of figures such as Simon Hantaï; further to this, well-established artists like Daniel Buren have been rescued from generalizing categories like “conceptual art” and the relevance of his practice as painting has been underscored. Increasingly evident, too, is the conjunctions between these artists and a diverse conglomeration of intellectual positions—Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, Blanchot’ writings, Althusserian structuralism, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and deconstruction—that became central to French “post-war” culture. Whilst these philosophies and theories conditioned developments in Anglo-American art, criticism, and history, the art practices that first engaged those theories remained obscure outside of the Francophone artworld.
This session understands the interrelations between painting and theory in the French scene as a ferment in which not only do painters respond to theoretical developments but those theories are determined by the practices of painting emergent in the period. Influential writings on art by figures such as Hubert Damisch, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Georges Didi-Huberman arguably cannot be fully understood without reference to those practices. Therefore, the hitherto scanty attention paid to French painting compels readdressing. Painting, Discourse thus invites scholars to contribute to overcome this art-historical lacuna. Moreover, it also encourages papers that explore the impact of this theory/painting ferment upon later art practices and theoretical understandings.
Speakers & Abstracts
Division and Displacement
Philip Armstrong and Laura Lisbon (Ohio State University)
While the reception of As Painting has been shaped over the last twenty years by the exhibition catalogue, published in 2001 by The MIT Press and the Wexner Center for the Arts, the exhibition itself has been largely overlooked. Our presentation addresses some of the critical consequences of this reception, notably in light of the growing reassessment of French painting in the 1960s and 1970s. One of the questions at stake here is how the exhibition itself, rather than the accompanying catalogue, reopens the conjunction of ‘painting, discourse that forms this panel’s title. A further question addressed is how the exhibition and catalogue’s subtitle—'Division and Displacement’–has also been largely overlooked in the reception of As Painting. The presentation not only explores how the practices of ‘division’ and ‘displacement’ played a determining role in the exhibition’s hanging in the galleries of the Wexner Center but how such terms reopen the very possibility of conjoining ‘painting’ and ‘discourse’ in the first place.
The Forgetting of Merleau-Ponty in France and in the US.
Stephen Melville (Ohio State University)
The absence of the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty in our accounts of the emergence and influence of the body of French thought taken often subsumed under the general term ‘theory’ is certainly one of its striking features. This paper proposes an overview of some broad institutional determinants of that absence, which takes, I suggest, very different shapes in France and in the US. The costs of this lacuna are high and particularly striking when it comes to treatments of ‘the visual’, but also reach well beyond that into fundamental questions about objectivity and the claims of ‘theory’. The exhibition As Painting: Division and Displacement did not itself include any sustained reference to Merleau-Ponty but can in retrospect be seen to depend in part on an occluded presence of his work.
Thickness/Flatness + Thinness
Mick Finch (
Ileana Parvu (Geneva University of Art and Design, HES-SO)