The premise seems simple: A painter’s painter curates an exhibition comprising one work each from 118 painters. The breadth of the offering covers the full gamut of the medium and, as a result, creates a beautiful crisis for the genre of painting—and that’s because there isn’t a lick of paint in the most painterly concerned of painting shows.
For (detail), artist–curator Andrew Bracey asked each of the artists to contribute a detail of one of their works, to be enlarged and exhibited in a montage of photographic detail. The show could be seen as a virtual offering that feels familiar, in which images occur one after the other with a curatorial rhythm. Visually, it’s perfectly realized—the images play off of each other without any one image dominating, because to emphasize individual moments that pop or come together would work against what’s actually being presented. The irony of this situation is that it’s exactly the kind of show that has been painfully needed for a long time, but now that it’s arrived, it’s hard to know what to do with it.
For Transition Gallery, the show presents a modernist exhibition with each of the works offered as a 68.5-centimeter (27-inch) square, scaled to neatly fit the white-cube gallery. Usually, a detail will offer insight or a clearer understanding of its subject. This show offers no such aid. By design, the individual pieces cannot provide any real insight into their respective source work, as they are detached from the very subject they purport to examine. This is strictly detail about detail. Conceptually, it pushes well beyond Peter Halley’s argument of a thing being so hyper-modern that it becomes postmodern. One is left to wonder: Is this a meta-painting show—a show so much about painting that it no longer can be about painting?