PRINT March 1979

Existential Formalism: The Case of Sharon Gold

Freedom implies . . . the existence of an environment to be changed: obstacles to be cleared; tools to be used. Of course it is freedom which reveals them as obstacles, but by its free choice it can only interpret the meaning of their being. It is necessary that they be there, wholly brute, in order that there may be freedom.

—Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

SHARON GOLD’S PAINTINGS ARE unequivocally modernist.1 But to bespeak, however brilliantly, their materiality—of format as well as substance—is not fully to qualify their modernism. For, at least since the late 1960s, modernism has involved what Robert Pincus-Witten has termed an element of personality.2 This is more than a matter of what Joseph Masheck calls “the human effect” generated by “the palpable ‘touch’” of the material. It involves, rather, an acute sense, in Pincus-Witten’s words, of the form of the work itself as

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