PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review Blog
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue Vahni Capildeo The Boisterous Weeping of Margery Kempe Paul Muldoon The Fly Sinead Morrissey Put Off That Mask Jane Yeh Three Poems Sarah Rothenberg Poetry and Music: Exile and Return

This article is taken from PN Review 15, Volume 7 Number 1, September - October 1980.

Adrian Stokes and Recent American Painting David Carrier

How much can be seen in a blank, stretched canvas? Three men stand in front of one. The first describes it as 'an arena in which to act', a place where 'the painter thinks by charging a surface with paint'. The second thinks it 'already exists as a picture' because it acknowledges the norms of painting, 'flatness and the delimitation of flatness'. The third finds 'a pre-existent minimal structure', one that absorbs the viewer because it represents the idea of sleep and the infant's view of the flattened maternal breast. (CWS, III, p. 217, pp. 159-60).

Unlike Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg, Stokes didn't write much about abstract expressionism. But linking Stokes's writings to theirs is a good way to learn something about the theory of art.

Rosenberg's essays were the occasion of 'fiery disputes . . . about the relations between process and product in . . . painting'. Rosenberg emphasized process in ways a Stokesian may at first find suggestive: 'the fragmentary art of . . . action painting engages itself within the fragmentary inner world of contemporary man and the fragmentary outer world . . .' But that he can imagine painters approaching canvas without prior ideas shows that Rosenberg's concept of action is undeveloped. Where Stokes's modelling/carving distinction allows elaborate description of the artist's mental processes, for Rosenberg action seems to be only a gesture. Wollheim's argument that psychology shows why artworks are valuable is pertinent here. Isolating actions from a ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image