Exploding, Inevitably

These are just but two of the many explorations of the significance of representation that seem to occur with regularity in cartoons of the 1950s and 1960s.

At one moment we see a painting that we understand to be pictorially reproducing an image of landscape. In this mode, the painting recalls a grand tradition of art historical landscape painting. But then, BANG! Suddenly, it’s an object – shedding its ‘magical’ representational powers, becoming nothing more than the sum of its parts: stretcher, canvas and paint.

As the idea of representation and landscape oscillates so very wildly in front of our eyes, we see a crisis of representation: We see the struggle of representational painting to sustain its own suspension of disbelief, to animate the thing that allows it to imagine itself – or for us to imagine it – as an image of landscape rather than daubs of pigment.

We also might see the struggles of post war American art: the occupation of space rather than its representation (Smithson, Judd etc … ) or the moment of collapse of the edifice of representational art (as per Rauschenberg, Johns, Lichtenstein etc …)

But beyond the historic circumstance of these cultural artefacts we can also recognise something more universal. In Coyotes expression of confusion, panic and fear as the very state of his creations alters in ways that exceed his understanding is the doubt, fear and panic of anyone who has delivered a thing into the world. From that moment, the relationship between the object, our expectation, and the ways in which that object might perform remains anxious and unstable. Indeed, objects have no allegiance to their creators and more often than not unfold, refold, explode or collapse in ways that undermine their progenitors intentions.

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