“Sensuous/Pensive: At Odds And Overlapping”

Curated by Donald Kuspit & Casey Gleghorn

Joseph Beuys, Mike Cockrill, Alberto DiFabio, Beverly Fishman, Marjorie Grigonis, Maynard Monrow, Odd Nerdrum, Lynn Stern & Chad Wys

Exhibition dates: Nov. 18th – Jan. 14th / Opening reception: Friday, Nov. 18th 6pm – 10pm

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Beverly Fishman – “Untitled (anxiety)” – Urethane paint on MDF, 32” x 106” x 2.25” and Chad Wys “Figurines of a Boy and a Girl in Cement (Diptych)” Cement and found ceramic Each: 9” x 3” x 3.5”

Sensuous/Pensive:  At Odds And Overlapping

Essay by Donald Kuspit, Nov. 11th 2016

There are nine artists in this exhibition, some represented by two works, some by one. The works seem wildly at odds, not to say incompatible, but, I will argue, they can be divided into two groups, some under the rubric of “sensuous,” some under the rubric of “pensive.” The sensuous works are what I want to call primary process art, the pensive works are secondary process art, following Freud’s distinction. To use his words, primary process is governed by the pleasure principle, which “represents the claims of the libido,” secondary process is governed by the reality principle, a “modification” of the pleasure principle which reflects the “influence of the outer world.” More particularly, the pleasure principle functions “to reduce psychic tension that has arisen from drives pressing for discharge.” It is in principle cathartic and expressive of unbound energy. Secondary process is governed by the reality principle, which, “while entering into the service of the pleasure principle, causes the latter to be appreciably modified to conform to the demands of the outside world.”(1) It is concerned to represent the world as logically, intelligibly, and impersonally as possible, while the pleasure principle is concerned to express seemingly illogical, unintelligible, and deeply personal feelings as passionately as possible. Primary process art is non-discursive and tends to be abstract. One might say that it is the art of the unconscious, while secondary process art is an art of consciousness. Bypassing the repression barrier, primary process art has an immediate exciting effect. It is instantly gratifying, insistently present, emotionally compelling.  It doesn’t seem to require a second, more reflective—considered—look to make sense of it. It is in no need of rationalization to be convincing. It doesn’t seem to ask for understanding, but invites immersion. (Think of Jackson Pollock.) Secondary process art is discursive and tends to be representational. It is communicative rather than overwhelmingly expressive; the expressive power its colors and shapes acquire by the artist’s libidinous investment in them is enlisted in the service of its communicative purpose. (Think of Van Gogh.)

 

beyond-bones-06-64-2006-10-pigment-print-34-x-35-inches-400-res-copyLynn Stern – “Beyond Bones #06-64,” Archival Ink-jet Pigment Print, #1/12 38″ x 39.5″ framed

Primary process art affords an intense sensuous experience, at its most consummately libidinous what the psychoanalyst Marion Milner calls “primary sensual experience” and the aesthetician John Murungi calls “lived sensuousness.” For both it is the core or fundament of aesthetic experience, and at bottom an experience of lived bodiliness, the kind of experience the psychoanalyst Thomas Ogden and the psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan describe.(2) Our eyes are inspired by primary process art, but it is also haptically stimulating, and arouses our other senses, sometimes conspicuously, as when Kandinsky heard the sound of color (hence his so-called musical paintings), sometimes more subtly, as the notion that colors taste and smell differently, making some more or less preferable to others, depending on our mood or feeling state. Secondary process art invites calm reflectiveness— reverie, in the sense in which the psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion uses that term.(3) In a state of what might be called reverential contemplation we are able to give meaning to our sensations and feelings, contain and with that manage them, mentalize them so that they become comprehensible, and with that no longer threaten to undermine or overwhelm us . Thus secondary process art has a therapeutic effect, suggesting that primary process art also does, when we calmly reflect on it rather than remain mindlessly engrossed in it, driven by its own drivenness. Establishing a certain psychic distance from it, so that we are no longer entirely under its spell, we can comprehend the needs and desires that led us to thoughtlessly identify with it.

No longer lost in fascinated wonder at some particular art, we can begin to think about it, understand its raison d’être, and with that uncover its meaning and importance for our lives—its value for our being, its existential usefulness. Bion was especially concerned with “states of anxiety and terror which we are unable to make sense of and which are felt to be intolerable (especially the fear of death).”(4) The eureka moment of cognitive insight that occurs during calm reflection on art reminds us that it has therapeutic purpose, and as such aids, furthers, and supports life. At its most effective, it counteracts Todesangst. Making us conscious of our drives and minds—the depth of out suffering and our capacity for understanding–it gives us a measure of control of our lives and self-possession. Primary process art is emotional manna while secondary process art is food for thought. But as Freud said the pleasure principle and reality principle work together. The sensuous can’t do without the pensive, the pensive can’t do without the sensuous: the works in this exhibition are convincingly both, that is, the sensuous works are thoughtfully conceived, the pensive works are sensuously intense, which is why both are masterpieces of their kind.

 

adfAlberto DiFabio – “il tuo pensiero sulla sostanza informe (Your Thought on Formless Substance)”,
Acrylic on canvas, 100 cm X 100 cm

Alberto Di Fabro’s Your Thought on Formless Substance, 2016, Beverly Fishman’s Zanex Bar, 2016, Marjorie Grigonis’s Flight and Synapse, both 2015, and Lynn Stern’s Beyond Bones, 2016, are primary process works. Joseph Beuys’s Das Schweigen, 1973, Mike Cockrill’s Las Meninas (Ant Eater), 2012 and Exploding Businessman Bunnies No. 2, 2016, Maynard Monroe’s Still Life with Things You Just Don’t Understand, Nothing Says I Love You Quite Like Bruised Fruit, Follow Your Damn Bliss Right Out the Revolving Door, all 2013, Odd Nerdrum’s The Night, 2006, and Chad Wys’s Flea Market Landscape with Bars and Figurines of a Boy and a Girl in Cement, both 2016 are secondary process art. “Talk about our minds our thoughts can transform the gas the unformed substance in a real material,” Di Fabro writes. Di Fabro is a sensuous visionary: a mystic struggling to see the “ethereal” light (his word) in the material darkness. Tinged with sky-blue, confirming its sacredness, the light bubbles up out of the darkness in which it is entangled—tendril-like strands infect the scene, encasing the bubbling light as though to strangle and extinguish it. More diffuse light floods the scene, spotting and clouding it with enigmatic luminosity. The painting is sensuously exciting: the light and black are in a kind of Manichean struggle, neither decisively dominating the other. The outcome of the transformation—an alchemical process, in which the heavy black is slowly changing into weightless light—is uncertain. The process is not finished, making the picture all the more sensuously ripe, poignantly ecstatic. Paradoxically, its incompleteness makes it consummately sensuous. At the same time, the mindfulness of the work—its conceptual character, as it were—gives it cognitive cachet, and with that a place in secondary process art. It is the representation of a state of mind, and with that of intense sensation given cognitive meaning. It is as though Di Fabio has represented the transformation of Bion’s beta elements into alpha elements. If the threatening black tendrils are beta elements, then the slowly forming bubbles are alpha elements.

 

Chad Wys_Flea Market Lasndscape with BarsChad Wys – “Flea Market Landscape With Bars”, Acrylic on found print and frame, 26.25″ x 16.5″ x 1″ 

Primary process art tends to deal in what Anton Ehrenzweig calls non-gestalt forms—sensational gestures that carry intense emotion. Non-gestalt forms, richly sensational and expressive in themselves, abound in Marjorie Grigonis’s two works, forming eccentric constellations that have an uncanny, precarious, complex intelligibility. The widely different gestures never converge, yet they somehow hang together, suspended in the abstract space of a flattened sky, the white void of the paper, where they appear with flash-in-the-pan spontaneity. One’s eye jumps from one gestural fragment to another—some grand and sweeping, like the large, blurred, blackish horizontal form that sweeps across Synapse, with its single linear gesture reaching out to make a connection to the red grid below it, and never quite doing so, never firmly latching on to it. Ehrenzweig tells us that we scan such de-composed compositions, as it were—ingenious aesthetic examples of so-called creative destruction such as Grigonis’s works—unconsciously integrating the discrepant parts into a magical harmony.

synapse-copy

Marjorie Grigonis – “Synapse”, Mixed media, 38″ x 29″ framed

There is a certain poignancy to Grigonis’s precarious “constructions,” making each of their isolated gestures more sensationally intense. Their interaction seems accidental and tentative, even as they seem to be drawn to each other, sometimes overlapping, sometimes abutting each other, if only for a moment. From an art historical perspective Grigonis’s anxious constructions are in ironical fact deconstructions of Abstract Expressionism: she in effect shreds “heroically” all-over painting, undermining its masculinist pretensions, not to say delusion of grandeur. Her gestures are sensitive and subtle rather than crude and aggressive. Grigonis’s works carry the grand tradition of tachisme(5) to a climax, apotheosizing the tachist gesture as an ecstatic—and anxious–end in itself rather than as the building block of a painting, be it representational, as it was when it first appeared in Manet’s Music in theTuileries,(6) or abstract, as it has been since non-objective painting became the vogue.

And yet there is a certain objectivity to Grigonis’s works: Flight takes its cue from a stormy sky, suggestive of an emotional storm—we are emotionally attuned to the changing weather. Hints of nature are evident—the ghostly, bleached structure of repetitive branches in the upper left corner of Flight is striking—and the blurry black formations in both works have the melancholy look of storm clouds. The white branches and the red grid in Synapse are the only realized forms; everything else is in formless process. A synapse is “a region where nerve impulses are transmitted across a small gap from an axon terminal to an adjacent structure, as another axon or the end plate of a muscle,” to refer to the dictionary definition. Grigonis’s nervous gestures impulsively transmit their energy to each other, however fleetingly. Yet they are oddly enduring, hold their own in luminous space, giving them an inner radiance. Two streaks of light enter the bluish womb-like form in the blurry black mass in the lower right corner of Flight, suggesting there is hope even in despair.

flightMarjorie Grigonis – “Flight”, Mixed media, 28″ x 36″

The blazing colors in Beverly Fishman’s Untitled (Anxiety) [Zanax Bar] are sensuously arousing—they give a kind of knockout punch to the eye—and the four squares that form the rectangular bar seem to allude to Albers’s Homage(s) to the Square even as they acknowledge Frank Stella’s Protractor paintings by way of the curves of the two end squares, but all that art historical referencing seems beside the point of the irony built into the work, for Zanax is an anti-anxiety pill. Fishman’s work has its innovative place in the history of geometrical abstraction—her use of auto paint, making for a slick surface, and giving the painting a sort of dramatic, confrontational presence, all the more dramatic and confrontational because of the abrupt contrast (dare one say clash?) of the glaring colors—but the point I want to make it is that it reminds us, in a peculiarly perverse fashion, of Picasso’s admiration of Cézanne’s anxiety, as Picasso called it, and, more broadly, that we live in an Age of Anxiety, as W. H. Auden noted.  As I write this the cover story of Time Magazine is about adolescent anxiety and depression, and of course there is a pill for every emotional ailment—indeed, many pills, for the sickness seems incurable, or at least recurrent, and certainly wide spread.

 

bevfishmanBeverly Fishman – “Untitled (anxiety)”, Urethane paint on MDF, 32″ x 106″ x 2.25″

So Fishman’s work deals with America’s failing mental health and its addiction to the seemingly fast cure promised by the pharmaceutical industry. Her bright and alluring colors—but I find them slightly repulsive, their contrasts subliminally jarring and unsettling, even nauseating, the tension between them not quite bearable—are the artificial sweetening coating on the bitter pill, symbolic of the underlying bitterness of American life. Of course art is an artificial sweetener of life—an “artificial paradise,” as Baudelaire called it. Fishman’s point (among many others) is that the modern world is an artificial technological paradise, the tranquilizer being a triumph of medical technology, a symbol of the industrialization of medicine, the mass production of health care. The never-ending supply of pills in our society suggests that we will never be healthy, and that modern life—so fetishized by Baudelaire—is seriously unhealthy. Fishman shows that so-called pure art—and what can be purer art than geometrical abstraction, with its transcendental aloofness and apartness from life (certainly much more so than gestural abstraction, with its emotional rawness)—can be put to socially critical use. But it is not the ironical intelligence that draws me to her work, but the intense sensuousness of its startling colors, uncomfortably together, making for an even more lurid appeal, however also off-putting.

Freud postulated a de-energizing death instinct as well as an energizing life instinct. The death instinct also causes psychic tension—anxiety about death causes more psychic tension than anxiety about sex, for it tends to be more unconscious, more completely repressed—that demands discharge. In Lynn Stern’s Beyond Bones the skull that represents death discharges the shadow that conveys anxiety about it. Stern’s shadow is composed of different tones of black, giving it an oddly colorful presence, reminding us that seemingly colorless shadow has color in it, as the Impressionists realized, leading Matisse to famously remark that black is a color and that there are different tones of black, as there are of any color. This suggests that Stern’s shadowy photograph can be regarded as a tonally refined monochromatic painting. It is hard to determine whether it is a photograph or a painting, all the more so because of its textured, oddly expressive surface.

 

dontunderstand

Maynard Monrow – “Don’t Understand”, 3/3 Plastic type on open faced letter-board, 12.25″ x 18″

Broadly speaking, Stern’s work collapses the difference between photography and painting by way of its refined handling of shadow. Death almost seems beside its point—the skull is no more than a sliver of space in the remote distance, suggesting that the work also collapses the difference between abstraction and representation. It is the refined sensuousness—the exquisite aesthetics of shadow, subtly imbued with light as well as texture (perhaps suggesting that death is a “touchy” subject, that one doesn’t want to touch the skull, only look at it as though it was a thing of ironical beauty)—that matters. In a sense, Stern’s photograph shows that aesthetic transcendence of death is possible—that aesthetic purposiveness can make one fearless when facing death, a point that Monet also made when he gave the face of his dead wife aesthetic character in his portrait of her on her deathbed. There is a rich, intense, entrenched sensuousness in Stern’s photograph, making it—and death–oddly seductive. The skull—death–seems casually inserted in the photograph. It is barely noticeable at first glance, hauntingly present on second glance. But it is the shadow that draws us into the work, the shadow that is like a sensuous veil on the white skull, suggesting that it is as tempting as a naked odalisque. It waits in the wings of the shadow, waiting to perform on stage, baiting us with its hesitant appearance. The skull is the pensive element in Stern’s photograph—it communicates and represents a basic truth about life—and the shadow is the sensuous element, all the more so because it is suffused with subtle light. Stern’s photograph affords a eureka moment of cognitive insight into death even as it ingeniously suggests that death can be a sensuous delight.

The dramatic contrast of black ground and white letters in Monrow’s works has a certain sensuous impact, but the works are ironically pensive, as the witty one-liners the words form make clear. They are perverse koans, meant to startle us into awakeness and ponder. Ironical transformations of still life paintings, they’re teasingly—and tauntingly—absurd. Hopefully they catalyze a cognitive experience; they certainly invite serious reflection, even as they promise insight they never quite deliver—which makes them more cognitively appealing. But they suggest that Monrow has had a eureka moment of cognitive insight, hard to put into words because of its complexity. Yet his “sayings” are clearly paradoxical and absurd–dialectically intriguing, and also oddly tragicomic. I suggest that all the pensive works in the exhibition are similarly absurd constructions, that is, inherently self-contradictory and as such dialectically unresolvable and tragicomic. They are Gordian knots that can’t be cut, making them hypnotic puzzles. We are forced to think about their enigmatic meaning, without reaching final understanding–“conclusions.”

 

bruised-fruit-final

Maynard Monrow – “Bruised Fruit”, 1/3 Plastic type on open faced letter-board, 12.23″ x 18″

Beuys’s Das Schweigen is a classic example. Beuys places the five reels of the original 35mm theater copies of the German version of Ingmar Bergman’s 1962 film The Silence in copper and zinc baths, leaving them coated with hardened lacquer. The “sculpture” is minimalist and “systemic”–five circular forms neatly piled on one another. But its geometrical simplicity—its naïve abstraction—is deceptive. The work—silence—is paradoxically absurd: the fragile film—silence–has been preserved, monumentalized, embalmed, fetishized—permanently encased in a metallic coffin. But that means it can no longer be seen. In a sense it has been buried alive and forgotten. Yet Beuys has done it ironical justice: he has confirmed that it is about silence by silencing it forever, as it were. It can never be seen again—and silence can never be heard. Only felt: we feel the silence of Beuys’s piece—and the silence in Bergmann’s film, ironically apotheosized into invisibility, as though never to be seen again. Beuys thus pays odd homage to Bergmann, in effect identifying with him: his silence has become Beuys’s. Beuys thought of himself as an alchemist—able to turn cold dead inorganic stone to warm living organic oak, which is what will sooner or later happen to the stones he placed in Chelsea. Coated in honey he spoke to a dead hare, convincing us that it was mysteriously alive, listened in silence to every word he spoke, words that brought it to life, words that spoke to the spirit in its dead body. Bergmann’s film is mysteriously alive in its tomb. It will sooner or later break out of it and be seen: the silence will be heard. It is the silence of death, made louder by Beuys’s transformation of the film. Beuys’s work is as enigmatic as silence and death, and in the end can do without Bergmann’s film, just as silence and death can be do without and overtake Beuys and Bergmann. Certainly Beuys’s oddly mournful work put us in a pensive mood, forcing us to think about loss, and Bergmann’s lost film, petrified by Beuys. I want to liberate it from Beuys’s prison and see it.

Chad Wys_Figurines of boy and a girl in cement

Chad Wys – “Figurines of a Boy and a Girl in Cement (Diptych)”, Cement and found ceramic, 9″ x 3″ x 3.5″ each

Strange as it may seem to say so, the silence of death can also be heard in Chad Wys’s works.  He encases the bodies of the pretty boy and girl—both with curly blonde hair, sweet pinkish faces, and pinkish garments—in cement. It is what mobsters do to their victims, weighing their bodies down before they are dumped in the ocean, so that they will quickly sink and drown. Of course these works are also witty portrait busts, perhaps mocking golden youth, as their hair suggests, and perhaps mocking white people, for their faces are luminously white, and perhaps mocking all the pretty people in the world. Certainly the gritty cement in which they are stuck mocks their flawless skin. They are peculiarly old-fashioned, as the blue ribbon around the neck of the boy suggests, and helplessly delicate and soft, while the cement is crude, modern, and hard. Minimalist abstraction—the cement block—and idealizing representation —the doll-like figures–are forced together but remain at odds, their unresolved relationship generating psychic tension without discharging it.

Flea Market Landscape with Bars is even more deadly and absurd: the bars, with their wickedly at odds colors, cancels—ruthlessly negates—the lovely old-fashioned landscape, with its tall trees and calm skies. Modern abstract art, strikingly represented by the uniformly colored bars—the black bar makes their aggressive purpose clear—and traditional representational art, represented by the landscape and the flea market, with its old things, are at war, and modern abstract art is winning. And yet we can glimpse the old representational art through the prison bars of abstraction, suggesting that Wys is nostalgic about it, or perhaps ambivalent about both. The dual vision in the sculpture of the figurines suggests as much. Clearly food for thought, considering that the issue is unresolved. Wys’s works present us with a paradox—both modes of art are equally valid, can exist side by side, suggesting that it doesn’t matter if they can be reconciled. But we are discomforted by their contradiction. Wys seems to want to make us anxious about it.

 

mikecockrill

Mike Cockrill – “Exploding Businessman Bunnies No.2, 2016″, Collage on stretched canvas, 54″ x 64”

The same sort of contradiction is implicit in Mike Cockrill’s works. Modernizing Velazquez’s Las Meninas into a cubistic abstraction he reminds us of the representational original. He in effect contradicts it, forcing us to think about the original, remember it in all the glory that he has denied by transforming it. Velazquez’s painting has become dramatically activated by Cockrill’s treatment of it, destroying the aura its stillness gave it, the sense of its emotional depth and aesthetic profundity. Velazquez’s masterpiece has lost its air of serious concentration, and with that become absurd. It has become an all too labored patchwork quilt, undoing Velazquez’s seemingly effortless mastery. Becoming expressively modern, it has lost its “classical” perfection. The figures look agitated: decomposing them—turning them into busy geometrical fragments—has made them anxious, destabilized them. They have lost the poise—the self-possession—they had in Velazquez’s work. Even the central princess seems agitated, as the flurry of gestures that form her white gown suggests. Cockrill has problematized Velazquez, so to speak, and with that suggested that picture-making—representational art—is problematic, or, at the least, in trouble. Like Wys, he presents us with a problem, a double vision, suggesting his ambivalence, uncertainty—anxiety.   Is modern art preferable to traditional art—replaces it–as he seems to suggest, or are they equally valid and valuable? The shadow of Velazquez’s realistic painting haunts Cockrill’s abstract take on it, giving it inner substance, even as its outer substance has its own integrity. The Exploding Businessman is even more daringly contradictory: Cockrill doesn’t complete explode Las Meninas, but he completely explodes the businessman, reminding us of the remark that Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase #2, 1912 was an explosion in a shingle factory. Again, the contradiction between implied representation and actual abstraction gets us thinking—lands us in an aporia.

 

night

Odd Nerdrum – “The Night”, Oil on canvas, 296 cm x 200 cm (116″ x 79″) 

Odd Nerdrum’s depressing masterpiece restores us to existential sanity. The figure, naked in its shroud, as though rising from the dead, or about to die–his upper body defiantly upright while his lower body remains flat and unmoving, one leg covered by the transparent shroud, the other uncovered, his open mouth perhaps making one last cry–sits in pitch blackness, abandoned in space, immersed in death. The figure stands out of the void, holds its own in the dark emptiness, has presence despite being stranded in absence, seems oddly triumphant despite its suffering. Life in the midst of death, conveyed with a nuanced realism, an exquisite sensitivity to the inevitable. Suffering is made bearable by art. Nerdrum’s all-too-human work makes it clear that the contradiction between life and death must be addressed by art, and that traditional art is not dead, if under erasure, as it seems to be in the work of Cockrill and Wys.

josephbeuys_thesilence

Joseph Beuys – “Das Schweigen (The Silence), 1973

Notes

(1)Robert Jean Campbell, Psychiatric Dictionary (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981; 5th edition), 483

(2)For Ogden, such experience occurs in what he calls “the autistic-contiguous position.” It is “associated with a mode of generating experience that is of a sensation-dominated sort and is characterized by protosymbolic impressions of sensory experience” involving “rhythmicity” and “sensory contiguity.” “The Dialectically Constituted/Decentered Subject of Psychoanalysis. II. The Contributions of Klein and Winnicott,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 1962 (73):614.

For Sullivan, such experience occurs in what he calls “the prototaxic mode,” which involves “sentience,” “the most abundant mode of experience.” More particularly, it involves “the discrete series of momentary states of the sensitive organism, with special reference to the zones of interaction with the environment.” “Tactile” experience is a significant example of “sensitive” experience, Sullivan writes, referring to the “tactile organs” in his buttocks, “apprising” him that he has sat too long on the chair he is sitting in. Such “internunciatory sensitivities…have been developed in meeting my needs in the process of living.” The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry (New York: Norton, 1953), 29

(4)R. D. Hinshelwood, A Dictionary of Kleinean Thought (London: Free Association Books, 1989, 404

(5)I am suggesting that the model for cognitive containment of deeply experienced art by way of calm reflection on it—reverential attention to it, neither rejecting it nor idolizing it but empathically yet critically thinking about it–is Bion’s theory of the function of reverie. Here is the summary of it by the psychoanalyst Hanna Segal in Dream, Phantasy and Art (London and New York: Tavistock/Routledge, 1991), 50-51: “According to him, at the first primitive stages of development [or experience], the infant [spectator] is filled with raw perceptions, objects and emotions….He calls those raw primitive elements ‘beta elements.’ Beta elements are raw, concretely felt experiences which can only be dealt with by expulsion….When those beta elements are projected into the breast they are modified by the mother’s understanding and converted into what Bion calls ‘alpha elements.’ If the beta elements are felt to be concrete things that can only be ejected, the alpha elements on the contrary lend themselves to storage in memory, understanding, symbolization, and further development….If the interchange between the infant and breast is good, then the infant not only reintrojects its own projections made the more bearable, but he also introjects the container-breast and its capacity to perform the alpha function; the mother’s capacity to bear anxiety is crucial in this interplay.” I am suggesting that the attentive spectator or viewer of a work of art initially has a sort of primitive experience of its concreteness, subliminally anxious however ostensibly enjoyable, unsettlingly however stimulating. If he is emotionally mature and knowledgeable about art—all kinds of art—he has learned to contain his experience by thinking about. It then becomes neither pleasurable nor unpleasurable, but rather understandable and purposeful, acquiring aesthetic value and existential importance, which makes it memorable—no longer a passing fancy, boring and unimportant after being momentarily exciting and stimulating.

(5)A tache, the French word for stain, is a spontaneous gesture, and as such an expression of the True Self, according to the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott. Tachist art is sometimes called art informal or lyrical abstraction, meaning art without a predetermined or preconceived structure, and that does not necessarily—never—aims to arrive at some familiar structure or invent some unfamiliar one. It is curiously “inconclusive,” and with that open-ended—it does not aim at “closure.” It is an art in a state of perpetual becoming rather than finished being. Grigonis’s lyric abstraction is a sum of informal, “touchy,” sensations–some brisk and sweeping, some tightly curled in on themselves; some touching and going, some lingering with one or the other but never tightly remaining together–that never, indeed refuse–to form a closed, “formal” whole. Divergence rather than convergence seems the rule. Nothing is finalized, every touch seems contingent on the other, however incidental, responsive to the other, yet with its own “sensational” autonomy. The work’s inevitability is discovered in the course of experiencing its complexity.

(6)In 1867 the French critic Babou noted Manet’s “mania for seeing things as patches” (taches), particularly in the portraits in Music in the Tuileries: “the Baudelaire patch, the Gautier patch, the Manet patch.” Quoted in Manet 1832-1883) (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art and Paris: Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1983), 126. Cézanne also noted Manet’s penchant for patches (176).