New York

“Bad Painting”

The New Museum

The essence of “Bad Painting” is to create a controversy through a controversial title. The viewer’s obligation is to decide if a controversy really exists. Represented and defined as “paintings outside the mainstream,” the works included are definitely hard to classify in terms of traditional painterly competence. Most include the human figure, and their common link is that none represents the figure in classic good proportion: Does this mean the artist couldn’t draw even if he wanted to, or that good drawing is not essential after all? Somewhere beneath the murk of defining what is mainstream and what isn’t lies either some grain of truth or irrelevant semantic nit-picking.

Luckiest of all are those who walked into the show, saw a lot of bad paintings and left. They escaped the labyrinth of contradictory definitions now plaguing more obsessive viewers. Most likely there’s no pat answer

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. Please sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW and save up to 65% off the newsstand price for full online access to this issue and our archive.

Order the PRINT EDITION of the April 1978 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

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