Thursday, August 30, 2012


P s N Q s
The National Exemplar, 381 Broadway, 2nd Floor
Sept 5th - October 14th 
Opening Wednesday, Sept 5th 6 - 8pm

    I heard a story about how El Lissitzky once painted a large suprematist-y billboard and displayed it outside of a factory in Vitebsk. I've never seen it but I imagine it had some shapes, some colors, the whole deal really. They say Lissitzky’s intention was to activate some leftist rumblings amongst the workers there, but that he didn’t quite hit his mark. I guess the gesture must have involved a kind of faith in the power of aesthetic forms to engender new social formations... 

    Lissitzky bumped into a foundational paradox of the aesthetic vis-a-vis praxis: that it be both autonomous AND inextricable from the socio-political conditions in which it arrives. Not incidentally the history of modern art is formulated as a series of repeated bumpings-into. 

    These days such encounters are made into useful signs themselves. They comprise a valuable shorthand that can inspire pathos and sell paintings (see this press release). People even say that this "making sign" of historical avant-gardes is one convention of contemporary art (and of image production generally).

    Funnily enough, another convention consists of divorcing signs from their original or intended meanings and referents. People call this one “abstraction”. These complementary conventions constitute a kind of kombucha dialectic wherein a historical avant-garde as hypostatized membrane is seemingly at odds with the proliferation of flavorful abstractions in which it stews. 

    For better or for worse these paintings, which are called Period Pieces, imagine a vanishing point for these trajectories.

Sebastian Black


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