What happens when painting attempts to do without the use of form?
A better question might be, what happens when form is painting's goal?
When form is the goal, paint serves to represent something else: an object, a view, a figure, a face. Considered this way, figurative painting is actually an abstraction of something "real." That frees Abstract painting to become the true realism, since Abstract painting is about the paint, and how paint never stops being paint.
But what if a painting could convey space without sacrificing paint always being paint? This would be painting with primary attention given to the paint as its own entity, yet still conveying spatial elements of form. The artists in this exhibition ask us to deal with their works on multiple levels. Their paint draws us in, while simultaneously the surfaces and forms come forward, thus using surface as a representation of space.
The significance is immense. Illusionary space was the goal of all painters from the Renaissance up to Picasso, who redefined that goal with the dislocations of Cubism. Clement Greenberg's writing emphasized the philosophical underpinnings of Abstraction – of making art that is about the purity of material and process – so that a painting could become both subject and object.
In the hands of the California fetish-finish artists of the 60's and 70's, this "objectiveness" resulted in surfaces refined to mimic the finish of a car in the Southern California car culture.
All of these historical elements blend with new ideas in the work of the abstract painters in this exhibition, who bring space back into the dialogue while using the surface as the abstracted object -- thus bridging the gap between abstraction and realism in a way that continues the ongoing discourse of illusionary space.