Arlington, Texas

Tad Griffin

In 1989 Bruce Ferguson, Joan Simon, and Roberta Smith curated an exhibition at the Ringling Museum in Florida called “Abstraction in Question,” which attempted to address how the abstract painting of the ’80s differed from that of previous decades. According to Simon, the critical and formal stance of post-Modern abstraction required “that it do two things at the same time: refer to itself and to something else.” This is still a viable strategy for many young abstract painters like Tad Griffin who have developed a stylistic vocabulary that is formally self-sufficient but comments on some aspect of the world beyond the picture plane. In the ’90s, that world has become largely the landscape of technology and mass media, which the artist mirrors through his use of utilitarian-looking subject matter and technical procedures that disguise the painter’s hand.

Griffin’s rhythmic arrays of horizontal lines bridge the gap between reductivist abstraction and technical ephemera such as seismographs and EEGs. To achieve this high-speed digital look, the artist drags paint with specially fabricated squeegees across a gessoed, sanded canvas, leaving hundreds of thick and thin lines punctuated with xerographic “static.” In Griffin’s dystopian universe, these cool robotic marks are all that remains of the abstract gestures of yesteryear. In this show, Griffin expanded his simulationist theme to encompass an entire show, using one set of numerical notations to produce seven nearly identical canvases. As a take off on Sol LeWitt or a warmed-over critique of the concept of originality, the idea fell flat, but as a panorama of abstract data the cloned paintings were mesmerizing.

Tom Moody