The Indiscipline of Painting – International abstraction from the 1960s to now

Tate St. Ives features a new exhibition this winter dedicated to abstract painting. It will be an interesting mix of work spanning 50 years and The Painting Imperative is delighted to present a taster of the show for its readers.


Francis Baudevin, b 1964, The Only Truth, 2010, Acrylic paint on wall, Dimensions variable

The earliest works in this exhibition were made in the aftermath of Clement Greenberg’s essay, ‘Modernist Painting’, which was first published in 1960. Greenberg was later to express his regret about the effect and influence of his essay, which fostered the view that the self-reflexive language of abstract painting could only lead to an exhaustion of its possibilities and the death of the medium. The Indiscipline of Painting asserts a different historical trajectory for abstract painting. It shows that the languages of abstraction have remained urgent, relevant and critical, revisited and reinvented by subsequent generations of artists over the last fifty years, and that they continue to provoke contemporary practitioners into dialogue. Far from being solely formal preoccupations, abstract paintings are connected to the world that they inhabit, addressing architecture, interrogating design and reviewing their own history.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Eggs, 1982, acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 228.6 x 177.8 cm

For both Tate St Ives and the University of Warwick, this dialogue is of particular interest. For Tate St Ives, it allows the institution to reframe readings of the abstract paintings that were made by a small, international colony of artists in the middle years of the twentieth century, charting a parallel trajectory that sits alongside the legacies of British constructionist and abstract expressionist practices. For the University of Warwick, it presents the opportunity to relate its collection of abstract paintings from both St Ives and from North America to a strand of art practice that resonates with the institution’s continued commissioning and purchase of abstract paintings for the built environment of the campus.

One of these purchases was a painting by the artist Daniel Sturgis. He conceived this exhibition and has led the selection of works. The curation of the exhibition is particular. We have been concerned to find works that may not be the usual examples of an artist’s practice but which respond directly to our enquiry and to Daniel’s own sensibility as a painter. In this way the show must be seen—to use Daniel’s own words—as both ‘partial and partisan’. It does, however, present an extraordinary group of artists and works, from Andy Warhol, Frank Stella and Bridget Riley to Bernard Frize, Richard Tuttle and Mary Heilmann, and whose coming together is the result of many enjoyable hours of discussion, deliberation, argument and agreement.

As part of The Indiscipline of Painting, Newlyn Art Gallery has commissioned an exhibition of new work by John M.Armleder. John M. Armleder is at Newlyn Art Gallery 8 October 2011 – 3 January 2012.

Richard Tuttle, b1941, Paris Piece 1,1990, Wood, paint, collage and vinyl, 137 x 97 x 16 cm, Collection FRAC Auvergne, France

 Large-scale museum exhibitions like this are rare outside London. Many artists have also contributed not only their paintings but their own ideas and experience to the development of the show. In particular, Michael Craig-Martin agreed to remake a work of his especially for this exhibition, Francis Baudevin, Keith Coventry and Katharina Grosse, each made new work for the show. Daniel Sturgis, gave us such a rich, complicated idea and has worked with us to realise it within the exhibition. The final sixty-two paintings comprise a remarkable group of works that are a testament to the continuing significance of abstract painting as a site of complex and exuberant enquiry.


Sarah Shalgosky Curator, University of Warwick

Martin Clark Artistic Director, Tate St Ives

Mark Osterfield Executive Director, Tate St Ives

Taken from the foreword of the catalogue The Indiscipline of Painting: International abstraction from the 1960s to now. The exhibition is a collaborative project between Tate St Ives and Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre. The exhibition opens at Tate St Ives 8 October 2011 to 3 January 2012, travelling to the Mead Gallery where it opens on the 14 January 2011, running until 10 March 2012.


Image Credits:

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Eggs 1982     acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen

228.6 x 177.8 cm

The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS, NY and DACS, London 2011


Francis Baudevin b 1964

The Only Truth


Acrylic paint on wall               Dimensions variable 

Courtesy of the artist and Gallerie Mark Müller, Zürich © The artist


Richard Tuttle  b1941
Paris Piece 1
Wood, paint, collage and vinyl

137 x 97 x 16 cm

Collection FRAC Auvergne, France © Richard Tuttle

Photo: © K. Ignatiadis