TABLE OF CONTENTS

STATEMENTS OF INTENT: THE ART OF JACQUELINE HUMPHRIES, LAURA OWENS, AMY SILLMAN, AND CHARLINE VON HEYL

LIKE A SOCIALIST INVESTMENT BANKER, a painter in a top MFA program circa 1990 was something of a living contradiction in terms. It’s no coincidence, argues curator MARK GODFREY, that artists JACQUELINE HUMPHRIES, LAURA OWENS, AMY SILLMAN, and CHARLINE VON HEYL all got their starts as renegade practitioners of gestural abstraction in the poststudio atmosphere that prevailed a quarter century ago. Challenging their own educations as well as the gendered connotations of their chosen field, Humphries, Owens, Sillman, and von Heyl established resistant positions poised between authenticity and appropriation. Here, Godfrey looks at the commonalities that unite his subjects, proposing that an adroit “fakery” of gesture and a new engagement with composition, agency, intention, and other erstwhile taboos inform the practices of all four painters—and have made them central to the art of today.

Charline von Heyl, Blotto, 2004, oil on linen, 78 x 82".

BAD EDUCATION

IN 1986, when she was a student in the famously theory-driven Whitney Independent Study Program, the artist Jacqueline Humphries presented a group of her abstract paintings to visiting professor Yvonne Rainer and received a silent shrug in response. The gesture, Humphries recalls, appeared to mean something like “Oh well—there’s nothing I can do for someone like you.” Humphries was taken aback to find Rainer at a loss for words, but from our vantage point the anecdote isn’t so surprising: There were no words, at that time, with which an ISP faculty member might credibly discuss abstract painting. Or rather, there were plenty of words, but all their permutations seemed exhausted. Influential critics had recently dismantled the “return to painting” and had decried the late-1970s retrenchment of unreconstructed expressionism, while artists such as Sherrie Levine,

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the May 2014 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.