Minimum Security Painting: Increased Dimensionalities and the Expanded Field

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


Presented in the conference session Keeping Painting in its Place: The Refusal of the Expanded Field

In High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967–1975 (2006) Katy Siegel noted that the lifting of prohibitions in the late 1960s brought with it the demise of ‘‘maximum security painting’’, a term she uses to describe the modernist abstraction of Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitiski and Morris Louis. However ‘‘painting wasn’t at an end…but only a certain definition of painting…’’ Siegel’s admission denotes the fact that the reductivism of this approach to painting was at odds with, and ran counter to, what one might describe was a minimum-security version of the medium, a version that, during the period in question, gained a measure of critical purchase. Marked by an ‘‘increased dimensionality’,’ (Carolee Schneemann), the work of Sam Gilliam, Lynda Benglis and Karen Carson nevertheless foregrounded its relationship to, if not its identification as painting.

This paper will explore the historical moment during which artists sought to extend the parameters of the medium beyond formalist abstraction and beyond the perceived reductivism of Greenberg’s criticism. Moreover, and echoing Siegel, what will be claimed is that although the lifting of prohibitions heralded the demise of a particular approach to abstraction and, by extension, the topology of modernism, it had become most readily associated with a certain definition of painting and, by extension, a certain definition of modernism remained. The aim of this paper, then, will be to examine a historical moment wherein a minimum-security version of the medium sought to reconsider its position in relation to a more discursively expanded field of production.
Period4 Apr 20196 Apr 2019
Event titleAssociation for Arts History Conference 2019
Event typeConference
LocationBrighton, United KingdomShow on map