birthday mask 2, 12″x12″  by christine clark

“The New York Abstract Expressionist Barnett Newman fought against formalistic misrepresentations of his work. In 1963, he refused to participate in a show entitled “The Formalists” as the show would be “a distortion of the meaning of my work” (Newman, 1990:221). When The New York Times announced that a museum exhibition in which Newman participated represented “the new American formal painting,” Newman complained to the museum’s director that “I have become a cog in the formalist machine” (Ibid.: 186). In his catalog statement for the show, Newman charged that the art object becomes a fetish and an ornament if it is reduced to its formal properties. He wrote, “the fetish and the ornament, blind and mute, impress only those who cannot look at the terror of Self. The Self, terrible and constant, is for me the subject matter of painting and sculpture” (Ibid.: 187).”

from Formalist art criticism and the politics of meaning

by Deniz Tekiner