“The Vertical Flatbed Picture Plane”

Turner and Byrne Gallery

In “The Flatbed Picture Plane,” 1972, an essay discussing the work of Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and others, Leo Steinberg posed the idea of a “tilt” in the conventional pictorial surface from vertical to horizontal. He argued that Rauschenberg’s scatterings of mass-media images and Warhol’s pictures of pictures demanded a perceptual reorientation, away from a “worldspace” (a view corresponding to a window on the world or the upright posture of the human form) and toward a “receptor surface,” such as a tabletop, the studio floor, or the flatbed printing press. According to Steinberg, the picture plane’s right-angle shift reflected a fundamental change in the subject matter of art—from nature to culture.

Over the last few decades, the drip-and-gesture iconography of abstract painting has passed from the realm of the exotic into a more ordinary one, adorning T-shirts, consumer

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