Friday, June 6, 2014
When I was in New York last month I saw a fascinating art show of the work of Robert Longo at Metro Pictures. Longo has used charcoal to create meticulous black-and-white facsimiles of classic mid-century abstract paintings. This project intrigued me for any number of reasons--my own personal enduring love affair with abstract expressionism, our culture's larger postmodern love affair with appropriation and remixing--but most of all I was fascinated by Longo's color project. Some of the works he chose to recreate--the Rothko, the de Kooning, and the Still--are, in their original forms, colorful; the colors come to our minds immediately when we picture these paintings, so Longo's dismissal of those colors seems a serious and loaded act. You think you know what he's up to. But then you see others--the Kline, the Pollock, and the Motherwell--which are nearly as monochromatic in the originals as Longo has made them in his recreations. Huh. What's he up to now? You ask, but you don't know the answer, and that not knowing makes the pictures suddenly a whole lot more interesting.
To fully grasp the austerity of the palette, bear in mind that these are color photos.