In the realm of contemporary art, the debate around the relevance and evolution of painting has been an ongoing discourse, often acting as a mirror reflecting the dynamic interplay between tradition and innovation. The exhibition “The Painter’s New Tools” at Nahmad Contemporary in Manhattan, curated by Eleanor Cayre and Dean Kissick, delves into the transformative impact of new technologies on the age-old practice of painting. Featuring 57 works by 31 creators, the exhibition challenges the boundaries of what constitutes painting while emphasizing its enduring pursuit of beauty.
A Synthesis of Tradition and Innovation
The exhibition positions painting as a dynamic entity that has consistently adapted to technological advancements. From the invention of oil paint, which revolutionized artistic possibilities, to the contemporary lenses of photography, video, and computer graphics, painting has embraced change while preserving its essence. The curators argue that new media has not only redefined the practice of painting but has also expanded its horizons, ushering in a new era of artistic exploration.
Identity Crises in Painting
Cayre and Kissick guide viewers through painting’s ongoing identity crisis, exploring the conceptual spectrum where artists navigate between conventional painting and digital realms. The show encapsulates the tension between departing from traditional painting techniques and artists experimenting with animations and unpainted objects that find themselves on gallery walls.
Beyond Brushes and Palettes: Embracing New Media
The exhibition presents a diverse array of works that showcase the assimilation of new media into the world of painting. Laura Owens’ canvas, with hovering brush strokes and layered emerald hues, pays homage to Photoshop techniques. Ei Arakawa’s piece features an image of Owens’ painting displayed on a low-res tapestry of LEDs, seamlessly blending traditional and digital elements.
Redefining the Medium: From Renaissance to iPad
Julien Nguyen, recognized for applying Renaissance methods to contemporary idioms, challenges traditional tools with a digital portrait created on an iPad. The strokes laid down on the screen are translated onto a monitor, blurring the lines between conventional and digital artistry. This synthesis of old and new tools reinforces the idea that the essence of painting transcends the physical implements used.
The Spectrum of Expression: From Rothko to NFTs
The exhibition navigates the diverse expressions within contemporary painting, ranging from Rothko-inspired abstractions by Seth Price to the digital realm of NFTs. Notably, an NFT by Tojiba CPU Corp challenges traditional notions of painting by presenting a digital cartoon on a screen—a testament to the evolving landscape where even unconventional forms find their place.
Beauty Amidst Innovation
While the exhibition explores the boundaries of painting, it also celebrates the enduring beauty achievable through artistic innovation. Works by artists like Seth Price, Wade Guyton, Jacqueline Humphries, and Anicka Yi showcase a thoughtful update of painting’s conversation with itself, demonstrating that beauty remains attainable through various modes of expression.
Art’s Urgency in a Changing Age
Jessica Wilson’s “Perfectly Clear” encapsulates the urgency of the age, presenting a nearly photorealistic 3D rendering of a hand drawing a squeegee down a sudsy windowpane. Despite being one of the least painterly objects, the piece serves as a poignant reminder that the essence of art goes beyond the medium—it is an innate drive to transcend the mundane and elevate the human experience.
A Glimpse into the Future of Painting
“The Painter’s New Tools” invites viewers to ponder the evolving landscape of painting in the digital age. As artists continue to push the boundaries, the exhibition serves as a testament to the resilience of painting as an art form. It prompts us to question, adapt, and appreciate the ever-changing dialogue between tradition and innovation, offering a glimpse into the exciting and unpredictable future of contemporary painting.