Painting Never Died by Cedric Chambers

Modernism arrived when Manet painted his “Olympia.” He critiqued representational art and the aristocratic way of life.[1] Modernism reacted to the techniques used in creating classical art; why imitate reality when we have the camera? The old masters viewed the medium and the substrates as limits to their work. The Modernists, lead by Manet, utilized the medium as the opposite of a limitation. The medium became a method of expression itself. When Postmodernism arrived with Duchamp’s Urinal, he playfully challenged the significance of ideology at its core. If one were to simply put a urinal into an art gallery, does it become art?[2] When Greenberg claimed that Abstract expressionism was the epitome of painting, he critiqued classical representational art both in its technique and ideology.[3] He made broad statements which lost weight when Abstract Expressionism went out of style.[4] In both technique and ideology Photorealism was Abstract Expressionism’s anti-thesis. Instead of transcendence one focuses on the mundane, instead of abstraction one creates pure realism.[5]

Art is a cultural reaction to the change in function.[6] Art was never something that had an endpoint, and any critic who says otherwise is wrong. Culture is a force like the Invisible Hand. As technology progresses, culture progresses too. Street art occurs as a reaction to institutional art.[7] Stuckism emerged as a reaction to conceptual art.[8] The author is only as important as the actor, as the physical embodiment of the Spirit of the Age (German: Zeitgeist). The Zeitgeist is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time.[15][16] Banksy embodies the zeitgeist of today’s consumer society, while also embodying the innovation of spray paint.

This is the authentic nature of art: to express the historical significance of any given time period, to visually display ideological shifts and to demonstrate the innovations of said era. It’s not something that is dictated by a particular person or group of people. It emerges almost inexplicably, by the application and use of what people find around them; it’s created by the environment, by the ideologies of the era, by wars, by ideas, by technological developments. Without the camera there could not be photography, without feminism there could not be feminist art. Art exists as the objectification of culture itself. Often it’s simplified, limited by the materials it employs, like performance art. Art is practiced in all its glorious styles, embodied by people of all backgrounds. In this way, painting never died.


[3] Clement Greenberg, “Art and Culture Critical essays”, (“The Crisis of the Easel Picture”), Beacon Press, 1961 pp.: 154–57

[4] PBS. Accessed September 24, 2015. http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/gengloss/postm-body.html.

[5] Nochlin, Linda, “The Realist Criminal and the Abstract Law II”, Art In America. 61 (November-December 1973), p. 98.

[6] Dean, Tim. “Art as Symptom: Žižek and the Ethics of Psychoanalytic Criticism.” Diacritics 2, no. 32 (2002): 21-41.

[7] “Neo-graffiti” is a term coined by Tokion Magazine in the title of its Neo-Graffiti Project 2000, which featured “classic” subway graffiti artists working in new media; others have called this phenomenon “urban art.” A discussion by the Wooster Collective on terminology can be found at WoosterCollective.com.

[8] “Glossary: Stuckism”, Tate. Retrieved 16 September 2009.