Paintings Deficient of Paint: Merging History, Conservation-Restoration and Contemporary Art in the Verso

Posted on Wed, 06/03/2020 - 15:06
Description: This text discusses 21st century artworks and museum presentations that focus on the verso of paintings. Whereas the verso has a long history of being treated by painters, some contemporary artists have turned to exploring this subject via photography, sculpture, installation art and art intervention. It is for this reason that I that I think of this phenomenon as paintings deficient in paint. While many of these artists require access to museum collections to produce their works, some instead rework the structure of paintings as a way of pushing the medium into new territory. As some of the artists are, in effect, documenting existing works, the discussion encompasses contemporary artists' materials and methods, the material history of paintings and their conservation, alternate forms of documenting the condition of artworks, as well as matters related to the future study and conservation of such works. Contemporary works by eight international artists and three museum presentations are considered. The included artists are Dora Longo Bahia, Gerard Byrne, Paco Cao, Ben Geoghegan, Merlin James, Anne Koskinen, Vik Muniz and Antti Oikarinen. Museum presentations occurred at the Mauritshuis, Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP) and Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto (MART). A brief overview of historical antecedents in the depiction of the verso and the much more recent interest in demonstrating what the backs of paintings can reveal also provide context.