Unassuming painting


1. Flaky aesthetics begin by ascribing therapeutic or redemptive abilities —religious, existential, socio-political— to artworks.  Flaky aesthetics then proceed to fashion truth-driven artworks into illustrations of mystifying chimeras, and goodness-driven artworks into surrogates of well-intentioned activism.


2. Still, it shouldn’t be denied that flaky aesthetics can be seedbeds for great artworks. Just think of Mondrian, whose esoteric convictions do not exactly add to his works’ aesthetic efficacy. Interestingly, we would find it difficult to accept the opposite— that great artworks can underscore flaky aesthetics. Great artworks may somehow outdo their authors and the aesthetics fueling them. So perhaps a sensible aesthetic outlook should take the possibility of such dissociations into account.


3. My grammar-school teacher taught us in class, as required by the official curricula, that “Art is a form of expression” (El arte es una forma de expresión). Far from posing as a sufficient definition of Art (it is too vague for that) I believe this proposition can be a subdued and sobering directive as long as suggestions of therapeutic expressivism are avoided.


4. Late in life, Wittgenstein had left many lofty designs behind. He was no longer concerned with anchoring Truth (as the positivists were) nor with dictating an ethical code (as, say, the existentialists would be). Instead, he primarily devoted himself to analyzing the efficacy of human interchange. Following Wittgenstein liberally, a form of expression is eloquent (even conceivable) insofar as it conforms to a publicly acknowledged practice that bestows sense to individual behavior. Such practices rely on shared dispositions and expectations which are shaped by natural and cultural circumstances. While natural law remains constant, culture’s relative fluidity fosters the dynamics of such communal, meaning-bestowing practices, known in Ludwig’s lingo as forms of life.


5.  Painting’s dynamics are circumscribed by the weight of its history, by its thoroughly developed plastic syntax and by the ever-relevant constrains of its specific materiality. In painting, as in mature forms of life, presuppositions upheld by force of habit become stifling myths, clichés and articles of faith. A good painting may outdo its author’s intentions and even his/her flaky aesthetics by contributing to the fluidity of painting’s form of life— by oiling, tuning up, refurbishing its forms of expression. A lousy painting will simply contribute to the rusting of the gears (beware of the elegance of rust).


6. If Picasso reconfigured painting’s engine, Mondrian streamlined its body, DeKooning and Pollock added turbo-drive, and Terry Winters recently refilled the anti-freeze, I would see my work as something of an injector cleaner that seeks to remove undesirable clogging particles. The obstruction here is consequence of certain pseudo-categorical dichotomies that have become avant-garde commonplaces. I’m referring to dichotomies such as formalism/expressionism, form/content, figuration/abstraction, contemplative/critical, painterly/conceptual. In order to disprove the mutual exclusivity of these terms, their repositioning must be carried out from within painting and through plastic articulation— that is, through staging a painterly dialectic that dissolves the exclusivity of the dichotomized categories, a dialectic resolved, if at all, in the work’s pictorial efficacy.


7.    Pictorial efficacy is not measured by what a painting stands in for, but by how it functions within its operational parameters (materials, color, subject matter, public presentation). In my work, Sumo wrestlers are posited as triggers of plastic play; psychotics are cautiously assimilated as tools for reconditioning the appreciation of painterly expressiveness; painters are readily chosen as active operators in stagings of crisscrossing pictorial relations. But the efficacy these paintings aspire to —notwithstanding my self-assertive justifications— must be carried through by virtue of the viewer’s judgement…  instigated, nourished and tempered by the firsthand experience of the works. I hereby rest my case.


Yishai Jusidman

Mexico City, March 2001