On Conceptual Gestures in Allegedly Expressive Painting,
Traces of Expression in Proto-Conceptual Works,
and the Significance of Artistic Procedures
This essay forms part of the book "Art After Conceptual Art" edited by Alexander Alberro and Sabeth Buchmann published by the Generali Foundation, 2006.
Here we are made to reasses the categorization of Conceptual Art and Neo-Expressionism as polar opposites during the 1970s and 1980s in America and Europe and consider how thinking of these two as more akin to each other may help us to understand the situation, Isabelle Grow points to the idea of a "painting which conceptualizes expression".
Painters such as Sigmar Polke directly mock conceptual art. They allow for its institutionalized institutional critique to become a parody, assimilating concerns about process and structure in revealing the substrata of his paintings and images. Julian Schnabel presents gestural, romanticised paintings which are none the less highly self-aware, inserting appropriated material. Was his move to extend his practice to film, text, sculpture and furniture a negation of the categorization as "genius painter" or an attempt to prove his genius could master all trades?
In her works (such as Cold Observatorium,1986) Rosmarie Troeckel, gesture placed near mechanical reproduction acts as a subversive act which satirises, reflecting the involuntary nature of laughter compared to the seriousness of the printed work.
This is where we have come to. Gesture is so highly self-aware that it is used by artists as a tool, another symbol that acts as a reference to a set of standards and structures.