The Picture in Question

Mark Taylor in the first three chapters of The Picture in Question assess the paintings of Mark Tansey as a means of observing how Tinsley’s work negotiated the constructs of painting on a two dimensional surface in comparison to various philosophical opinions and historical art theories.  Taylor uses Tansey as an example of an artist who shares the role of critic, using painting to affirm or reject contemporary ideas proposed by various movements about what painting is and does as medium.

Thesis: A painting about painting, the subject of much of Tansey’s work critiques much of the modernist doctrine through complex dialogue between medium, subject, composition and method.

Representation-Strategy in writing: portray modernist thinkers as autonomous, logical and cold. Set up contrast against the work of Tansey.

Regime of repression

Militant overtones inherent to word the avant-garde

Post-war art doctrines as warring factions

Greenberg as a prescriber (or pusher) of entrenching (militant undertones) in competence and logic.

Critics degrade representation rather than ponder it.

Plato, cold and emotionless, pure logic.

The Abstract expressionists as too concerned with the thing itself


Hyperrealism further confounding the problem of representation (Hyper confusion with the image)

The Death (Negative, again war undertones) the picture is the absence of the thing.

PoMo’s refusals to question the narrow present as opposed to its stance on breaking from Modernism. Close-minded

Originality in the present is the only thing that matters

Shift to Tansey’s Method

Creation through the subtractive process born out of abstraction

A combination of previous doctrines

Provides paintings that are critiques on their own techniques

Direct influences from texts with views different than his own

His work as investigatory and provocative

The title opens questions, opens the work

Back to Philosophers turning from the impractical to the practical

Draws inspiration from the grid (modernist)

However injects randomness (wheel of chance, keep meaning in play)

Gambling, sport, play all anti-war (anti-modernist)

Conclude talking about the frame.

Art emerges through the interplay of countless frames, no longer warring Tansey’s work is a resolution and a question of multiple painting frameworks

Final comments stand in opposition the initial view of modernists as warring, revolutionary and radical

Mark C. Taylor, The Picture in Question (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999): 1-62.    


About mhgoblue

Architecture Undergrad University of Michigan

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