You know how sometimes you like an artist's work, and you are excited at the chance to attend a lecture and hear them speak about it, and the lecture is a big disappointment? That was not the case with Shirley Kaneda! I took so many notes and was writing so fast that I couldn't read my own handwriting. She didn't talk very much about any of her specific paintings, but more about painting in general and some of her motivations, while a survey of her work since 1990 was projected.
Born and raised in Japan, where at that time access to Western art was limited, she moved to New York as a young woman and says she was naive about art when she arrived. She started figurative, and loved Ingres, but says "figuration was not enough for me" and "I realized I wasn't interested in creating a narrative". She became enamored of abstract painting, finding "Still and Newman completely compelling". The challenge was that she "had to find a way to make abstract paintings relevant for me". She realized that she wanted to make abstract paintings but wasn't interested in following traditions, she wanted to undermine them.
For a fuller understanding of the context of the following, please read my previous post.
Kaneda said "making abstract paintings during postmodernism was a double-edged sword" because "postmodernism denigrates painting, abstract painting in particular" and spoke of how talk at the time of the ‘death of painting’ was not news, it had been going on since the early 1900's, and that she certainly didn't believe in that idea. "Many thought that the ‘death of painting’ was a fad and were relieved when it went out of style". Note how she declares that way of thinking to be obsolete – I loved it – she was looking right at RR.
This was followed up by criticism of the current state of the artworld that began, “even though I am just a painter, I think criticality is very important”. Ouch! “We have a culture where the only thing that matters is the present and what appears to be new”, in which “paintings are praised not for their freshness but for (illegible word - maybe 'tedium') and cleverness”. “Art has become a process of image consumption” and “a struggle for ideas in such a situation seems useless and hopeless”. “Abstract painting represents a choice”, “I still believe in art or painting’s ability to make some difference”.
“Artists are really not interested in self-criticality, which is a modernist goal, and God forbid we should (do that)”. “I see a staleness”, “they don’t really change anything or try to change anything, other than to try to gain attention” and “themes or contexts are recycled. An amnesia develops where we forget what happened last year”.
“The idealistic goals are not attainable, but that doesn’t mean we should give up”, it “doesn’t mean painting should be abandoned”
Wow! Shirley Kaneda is my hero! I'll continue tomorrow.