Cover image of the review
Travis MacDonald, *untitled (noon)*, 2019, oil and bronze on linen. Courtesy of Niagara Galleries. Photo: Aaron Christopher Rees

Kate Wallace, Views to Remember / Travis MacDonald, Clock Face

23 Nov 2019
Kate Wallace, Views to Remember, 30 Oct - 29 Nov 2019 Travis MacDonald, Clock Face, 30 Oct - 29 Nov 2019

Not without irony did the late Annette Michelson, writing for the New York Herald Tribune in 1957, note for her American readers that the art of the modernist avant-gardes had become traditional. This she had concluded from her viewing of a set of Robert Delaunay's rhythmic abstract paintings, shown retrospectively in a post-war and post-occupation Paris. Read today, Michelson's statement about the repetitive tonalism of the Orphic abstractionist seems to predict the coming implications for generations of painters responding to modernism and locates a problem for how we might understand the work of art for some time. According to the martial logic of historical progessivism, painting was now in crisis with itself.

The growing notion of art within a global contemporaneity, arriving about the time of Michelson's review (and the first NATO summit), has since attempted to slap a band-aid over this historical graze on the knee of Frankenstein's monster. But any accident is also an event, and our modern Prometheus has given us far more than what he bargained with the gods for. The solution proposed to suture this wound with “more art!” has only accelerated a situation that ends in performance. This response to modernism—to expand the arts, much like human rights—has produced the counter-effect of leading to their reduction. Today it seems as if the idea of a yawning gulf between what constitutes novelty and tradition is not really a gulf at all, rather it appears as the plane upon which competing ideas of modernity duel for ritualised supremacy.

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