|Suprematist Composition: White on White,|
1918, Kazamir Malevich
|Die Fahne Hoch!,|
1959, Frank Stella
The Russian abstractionist, Kazimir Malevich, had forseen this end as early as 1918 in his vision, White on White. Frank Stella, an American born in 1936, fired the final, suicidal shot that brought Abstraction and the Modernist Era to a not-untimely end. In his 1959 black painting, Die Fahne Hoch!, he claimed to have painted a work no one could write about. Almost the exact opposite of Malevich's White on White, this painting was all black in its careful application of very wide, black, enamel lines leaving a pin striping of raw gray canvas in a geometrically regular cross pattern. Minimalism was a back-to-basics movement, an admission that everything worth doing in art had been done, and that all that was to follow was endless repetition and variations on past accomplishments remodeled and rehabilitated to have a "new" look but basically "old wine in new bottles."
Decades of relentless "newness" had led to a virtual vacuum. Minimalism shut the door on Modernist optimism in its sterile painted constructions and raised the question of, "What next?" If the art world's very existence is predicated on innovation, then this apparent end begets a crisis of enormous proportions. In this Post-Modernist era in which we find ourselves, we struggle to make some kind of sense out of what art now is; and if it is now progressing in any real sense, or merely floundering in the sea of nothingness bequeathed us by the Abstract Expressionist movement.