Art Lies, Volume 47, Summer 2005 Page: 29
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The Death of
The Writing of
by Christopher Miles
The "death" or "end" of painting was, in fact, a crisis that presented itself in the
form of a discourse. By the time I was an art student in the mid to late '80s, it
had fully trickled down to classroom discussions from the published essays, most
from the late seventies and early eighties, that became the standard literature of
the discourse of painting's death. Various writers contributed to this literature,
but the two who still stand out-who captured my attention as a student and
who, I believe, contributed for better or worse to changing the course of paint-
ing-are Douglas Crimp, who launched a full assault, and Thomas Lawson, who
offered an oddly qualified defense of the practice.
Crimp's arguments emanated mostly in the form of three essays: Pictures
(October, Spring 1979), a writing expanded from an essay originally written to
accompany an exhibition by the same title in 1977 at New York's Artists Space,
The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism (October, Winter 1980) and The End
ofPainting (October, Spring 1981). Although Crimp embraced a few artists working
in painting, between these three essays he built an argument that crescendoed
against painting as an arena of practice-a practice that had become outmoded,
inbred, inward looking and incapable of functioning in the capacity of critique.
Crimp believed that painting was compromised by a relationship to museums;
institutions and the art form became codependent, maintaining one another's
centrality. In Crimp's view, the then-emerging Pictures artists-Troy Brauntuch,
Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman-successfully
used photography, film, video and practices based in these media to do what
painting had failed to do. (The original Pictures exhibition included Philip Smith
but not Sherman; Crimp traded Smith for Sherman when he published his Pictures
essay in October. The work of Richard Prince would also become important in
Crimp's later writing.)
ARTL!ES Summer 2005 29
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Bryant, John & Gupta, Anjali. Art Lies, Volume 47, Summer 2005, periodical, 2005; Houston, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228012/m1/31/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .