Gallerynote 4/2006

September 7 to October 28, 2006

JAMES BISHOP (*1927 USA) Paintings 1963-1980 Part II.
"Art without the world is madness." Julius Meier-Graefe
"For me, the operative working hypothesis is that the truths of the world are only really opened up by the various stages of our western painting acting in various ways. Here development does not equal progress but rather, in its shifting forms, asserts the endurance of the humane."
Benno Reifenberg 1962

The five paintings in this exhibition need no justification. James Bishop painted them between 1963 and 1980. In this time period, various major pictorial worlds reached their end and the future of painting and traditional visual means and processes was up for consideration. A few painters succeeded in taking in the floating forces of the painting process and finding an equating of concept and material. For in order to hold their own against and with the past, the new paintings had to be self-evident. The deficit made necessary by renewal and renovation had to be precisely calculated, possible losses had to be offset with profitable gains. From this time forth, paintings embody the properties and the justifiability of the paintings. They exist through their material, imparted outwardly and internally. The intensity and fullness of life of a pictorial surface, for instance, is an invaluable good established by Western European painting and it is to be hoped that the ability to make use of this good is maintained.

The structure of the paintings by James Bishop corresponds to that of an organism, or else one can compare it to the architecture of a building. There is a top and a bottom, there is a middle, a left and a right side. It is immediately clear to the viewer how the paintings present themselves, how the viewer can establish a dialogue.
Now is this merely a circular argument, pure self-referentiality? No, for the circular definition is opened up twofold, through the presence and existence of the work and through the animation of the viewer.
A verbal approximation fails to reach the discursive level as well as the place of occurrence. And thus we find ourselves at a decisive point of the argumentation, the location of the paintings, the place where they can be seen, the place where their self-certification takes place. Of course, it is difficult at present to accord this exclusive though not inaccessible place its right of existence. Contemplation and heedfulness are indispensable conditions. Reproduction and catchy stereotyping are scarcely possible. This art denies itself a social scene and scenery. It is not a vehicle equipped to take any relevant contents from one alien place to another alienated place.
A notable constellation of contemporary culture becomes apparent by means of such works: The political-philosophical tradition of object- and goal-oriented thinking is effectively thwarted by the philosophical-aesthetic tradition of freedom from ends and purposes. In the field of fine arts in particular, the question has to be posed whether a complete functionalization and reification should be advocated here.

A number of museum exhibitions on the work of James Bishop are being planned for 2007 and 2008. We would be happy to receive any details pertaining to the whereabouts of paintings on paper and large-format works.