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Ryman, Marden, Manzoni: Theory, Sensibility, Mediation

THERE ARE SEVERAL FIGURES at work today who in their general abstract-reductivist drift, preference for a geometric format and use of monochromatic surface, can be seen to derive from the achievements of Malevich and of Mondrian, or in terms of a more immediate model, from Agnes Martin before she ceased painting in the late ’60s. The problem today is less one of securing an abstract morphology—this is a given—than one of clearly focusing on those features of concern to the nominal act of painting. In this respect the Robert Ryman retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum reveals a desire to deal with the separate options germane to painting and clarify an approach to art which denies that the act of painting is in itself significant. Conversely, the recent exhibition of Brice Marden’s paintings at the Bykert Gallery suggests that, no matter how reduced in visual incident, painting remains

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