"Each painting is an act of rebellion, but also one of the many parts of an ongoing revolution to free painting from the tyranny of mundane representation or color field annihilation." - Francesco Bonami
Rudolf Stingel's Untitled is a dazzling mesh of cerulean blue and crisp white tones, dispersed rhapsodically across the canvas in streaks, flecks, smudges and striations. Executed in 1996, the work is a magnificent example of the distinctive abstract paintings produced by Stingel during these years. Shown in the 1996 Margo Leavin exhibition in Los Angeles, Untitled is a seminal work from the artist’s most highly prized series. Created by spraying paint onto canvas through carefully positioned swathes of gauze, this select series of works develops the innovative technique deployed in Stingel's silver paintings of the early 1990s, and distinguishes itself through striking color, richly variegated tactile texture and intricately detailed surface pattern. The method employed by Stingel in these works was first documented in his 1989 book Instructions, which provided a step-by-step guide to producing his paintings. Paint was applied to canvas in thick strokes; gauze or tulle was then strategically placed upon the canvas before further layers of paint were added using a spray gun. The material was subsequently removed to reveal the finished painting.
The vivid textures resulting from the material trace of gauze reintroduce a sense of the figurative into Stingel's abstractions, in the sense that they reconstruct the painted canvas as a physical object in and of itself. As Reiner Zittl has written, "Stingel may be categorized in the group of artists who passionately pursue painterly effects that for the most part appear almost autonomously on the picture's surface. The texture of the material's surface is proof of its manufacture," (R. Zittl, 'The Trickster,' in Rudolf Stingel, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2007, p. 32). Indeed, much of Stingel's oeuvre has been directed towards a reinvention of the picture plane as a material surface, rather than as a field of representation.
In addition to the abstract paintings, another prominent series of works features Styrofoam canvases, imprinted with footprints as if upon snow, transforming pictorial space into traversable ground. This notion is expanded to literal proportions elsewhere within the artist's output, and has given rise to the conceptual use of carpet and laminate flooring as performative artworks--surfaces that become progressively worn and besmirched by the continual traffic of gallery visitors. In the artist's major mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 2007, Stingel covered the gallery walls with metallic Celotex insulation board and invited viewers to draw and write on its soft reflective plane. The almost topographical surface of the present work may be said to resonate with these endeavors, mirroring the rugged texture of Styrofoam, the complexities of woven carpet fabric and even the scrawled etchings of graffiti. In this sense, the work may be said to transcend simple abstraction, conjuring instead a multitude of material associations.
In the present series of works, this effect is transformed through the use of vivid tones: "Stingel has unmasked the canvas, defogged the surface, and revealed the body beneath. Each work is a dazzling color...that sweeps across the surface, dynamically patterned and fully vibrant," (http://www.paulacoopergallery.com/exhibitions/24 [accessed 17 March 2014]). Within an oeuvre that has sought to redefine the nature of flat art through a variety of media, these abstract works are complex in their materiality, caught somewhere between painting and printing whilst simultaneously confronting the viewer as ornamental, almost architectural constructs. In this regard, they weave together multiple strands of art-historical lineage, ranging from Gerhard Richter's painterly abstractions, to Andy Warhol's aesthetic of reproduction, to the material concerns of artists such as Robert Rauschenberg. In the present work, we gaze upon a vast terrain created through imprints and residues, a visceral display of mark-making that invites us to explore the depths of its filigree surface.