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MODERNISM'S MANY LIVES: DAVID DIAO

PAINTING, AS A PRIVILEGED EMBLEM of humanism, has been taken as the visual record of the dynamic pulsation between doubt and idealism that has characterized the Modernist period, a vigorously generative oscillation that grew out of, and also stimulated, the often stumbling but powerful modern notion of “progress.” Modernist nonfigurative painting in particular is held to be exemplary, at least partially, I would suggest, because of the two deep ironies contradictorily embedded in it. First, despite the profound doubt (of authenticity, of relevance, of presence itself) that inhabits modern painting, threatening to upset its historical position (despite the ’80s’ audacious attempts to stabilize it by commercial force alone), painting still acts as a measure of the distance to which new art goes. Even when it is abandoned “completely” (by Marcel Duchamp, originally, or by Daniel Buren, Niele

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