An Expressivist Smithson?

The publication date of Ehrenzweig‘s book was 1967, but he died the year before. He was well versed in contemporary art, and mentions the color field painters, Neo-Dada and Op Art, and has something important to say about them all. Smithson must have read the book immediately it appeared. He was deeply affected by it and touted it to all his friends, and though there was definitely a readership for Ehrenzweig at that time, I think it wasn’t in the minimalist and early conceptualist milieu that he was part of. Smithson’s interest is a testament to the broadness of his views—it’s another question whether Ehrenzweig’s ideas matched Smithson’s art. In Ehrenzweig’s use entropy is one moment of an energy cycle, not time’s arrow, and if Smithson had taken on that idea his work would have changed in some unguessable way. The conceptualists and minimalists became art stars in the eighties; their careers really solidified in the context of the so-called “return to painting,” and the booming art market of that period. There is no doubt that both Smithson and Matta-Clark towered over the art world of the sixties and seventies, and if they had lived would have found their way from earthworks and public interventions back to gallery art and even made paintings of one sort or another—Smithson for sure, Matta-Clark maybe. What a different art landscape we would have, perhaps one less split by the journalistic distinction between painting and other forms, in touch with the more fundamental perspectives of thinkers such as Ehrenzweig.

Gordon Matta-Clark, Photomontage early 70s

Gordon Matta-Clark, Photomontage early 70s

This entry was posted in Abstraction and Society, American Modernism, Conceptualism and Painting, Principles of Abstraction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *