Roberta Smith, 'DIY Art: Walk on It, Write on It, Stroke It', The New York Times, 29 June 2007.
The meditative contemplation inspired by Rudolf Stingel’s Untitled inherits the tradition of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, artists who forged a radical new type of looking during the mid-Twentieth Century. Described by curator Garry Carrion as “sublime aesthetic reflection”, the immersive nature of Stingel’s abstract paintings pulls the viewer into a state of sombre contemplation as the eye roves over his paintings’ wave-like clefts and peaks (Garry Carrion – Murayari, ‘Untitled’, in: Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, (and travelling), Rudolf Stingel, 2007, p. 11). Belonging to the artist’s seminal Instruction Paintings of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the present work possesses idiosyncratic screens of silver-enamel paint beneath which a monochrome background of deep Rothko-esque red undulates. At the lower edge, a paroxysmal trace of hastily applied paint is left uncovered next to the mechanically applied layers of metallic enamel. As though a curtain is being raised, Stingel reveals his illusion and hence his technique, a technique that was first de-mystified in 1989 when Stingel published his limited edition Instructions book in which he explained how one could create their own Rudolf Stingel painting. In the present work therefore, the viewer is invited to unravel the work’s execution, and perhaps, even to imitate it.
In Untitled, boundaries are dissolved and the viewer is subconsciously drawn into the physical space of the painting via its seductive layers of paint. Untitled sets a solemn tone: a transformative red unravels behind a silver screen, and imposes itself by way of a thick border at the bottom of the raw canvas edge. Beginning his craft in the 1980s, Stingel found himself trapped between the worlds of Neo-Expressionism and a new wave of conceptual and minimalist art. Choosing neither, he rejected the stagnant trends of the period, choosing instead to push the subject of painting into a different time and place by imbuing his work with a transcendental energy – one that not only emanated from himself, but also from his viewers. Stingel thus invites his audience to take up what is traditionally the artist’s role and invites the viewer to, in the words of curator Francesco Bonami, “observe reality to create another reality” (Francesco Bonami, ‘Paintings of Paintings for Paintings, The Kairology and Kronology of Rudolf Stingel’, in: Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Rudolf Stingel, 2007, p. 13)
Untitled is a prime example of Stingel peeling off the derma of his work, revealing that painting is but a “symbolic surface”, a “protection under which the muscles and bones of the real keep moving, living and dying” (Ibid., p. 16). Beneath this surface lies the conceptual and fundamental dialogue surrounding the nature of painting: the authority of the artist, the authenticity of originality, and the role of the viewer. Created only two years after Stingel first published his radical Instructions, Untitled employs the same mechanical and somewhat industrial execution. Paradoxically, however, this work, and each work created following the artist’s step-by-step guide, is unique. Stingel’s craft does not inhibit originality and diversity, instead, the artist calls forth conceptually and physically stunning works that skirt the boundaries between lyrical abstraction and mechanised production.
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