Between Picture and Viewer: The Image in Contemporary Painting

Beginning November 23rd, the Visual Arts Gallery at SVA will be showing the exhibition “Between Picture and Viewer: The Image in Contemporary Painting,” curated by VCS department chair Tom Huhn and VCS faculty member Isabel Taube. The show features works by 19 established and emerging New York artists, and grapples with the changing nature of painting and the response of art in today’s media-saturated, image-rich culture. Here is a brief descriptive quote from the show’s SVA exhibition announcement:

“The exhibition is the result of a collaboration between Huhn, a philosopher, and Taube, an art historian. Rejecting the claim that the traditional image is now obsolete, Huhn and Taube point to a renewed interest and relevance in painting, one that makes a compelling argument for the materiality of art at the current moment, despite a preponderance of ephemeral and performance-based works in contemporary art practice.”

The poster for "Between Picture and Viewer" (click on the image for a larger version)

The selection of artworks for the show grew from an exploration of the different ways artists are responding to the image as it continues to evolve. Most of the 50-plus works included in the exhibition are very recent, and have never been shown in New York. Each artist’s work represents a distinct approach to the question of how images and painting interact. The results include representational paintings of both real locations and artificial scenes; abstract images resulting from process-based painting; canvases that explore and redefine older techniques of artmaking; and works that combine paint with other mediums such as photography.

In many cases, these works have the power to take on different aspects and engage the viewer in surprising ways. As a result, they look past the question of what painting can represent, and delve into the deeper matter of how its history has shaped the way we define it. According to Taube, “These works further the modernist debate about whether painting should be considered predominantly an image or an object.” The wide variety of works on display will allow viewers to consider the data first-hand and form their own conclusions.

The following artists are included in the exhibition:

Amy Bennett
Tiffany Calvert
Karin Davie
Natalie Edgar
Inka Essenhigh
Joe Fyfe
Max Gimblett
Ron Gorchov
Josephine Halvorson
T.B. Hamill
James Hyde
Matvey Levenstein
Judith Linhares
Lynn McCarty
Mary McDonnell
Jill Moser
Joanna Pousette–Dart
Alexi Worth
Lisa Yuskavage

As part of “Between Picture and Viewer,” SVA will present a panel discussion on December 9, 2010, in the SVA Theatre at 333 West 23 Street. The evening’s discussion will be moderated by art historian Katy Siegel, and will feature conversations by contemporary painters Josephine Halvorson, James Hyde and Dana Schutz on the role of images in their work. (I will post more information about the panel discussion as the date approaches.)

Finally, the Visual Arts Press has published a catalogue to accompany the exhibition. In addition to full-color illustrations of many of the works in the exhibition, the book features the essays “The Open Image” by Taube, which interprets specific works by each of the participating artists, and “Images and their Inclinations” by Huhn, which presents a philosophical argument addressing the nature and function of the image.

You can learn a lot more about “Between Picture and Viewer” by visiting SVA’s exhibition overview. The press page includes more information about the show’s thesis, information about the artists and their techniques, and a slide show featuring 17 of the works on display. A PDF file with short bios of all of the artists can also be downloaded at this link.

“Between Picture and Viewer: The Image in Contemporary Painting” will run from November 23 to December 22 in SVA’s Visual Arts Gallery on the 15th floor of 601 West 26 Street. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm, but will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday from Wednesday, November 24, 1pm through Sunday, November 28. A reception for the exhibition will be held on Thursday, December 2nd from 6 to 8pm. (I will post images from the reception sometime in early December.)

Visual & Critical Studies