According to the press statement, the artists in Non-Declarative Art
intelligently explore ambiguity, the minimization of information, and the rejection of overt meaning. If "declarative" art seeks to inform the viewer about the artist's views, non-declarative art seeks a lack of explicitness, putting the onus on the view to determine its meaning. By obscuring clear and obvious readings, these works allow for open-ended interpretation, empowering the viewer and activating the viewing experience.
Which is a lot to declare about art intended to be non-declarative. A lot of catchphrases too. The descriptions of the individual artists also declare what they are about. For instance, "Disguised as an aethetician, Gianna Commito (Kent, OH) makes works that look at first like regular formalist paintings and drawings, but turn out to have no traditional compositional order or aesthetic ambition." (Apparently, ambition, like formalism, is a dirty word.) The artists do not care to declare the "content" of their work, but declare, declaim even, their aesthetic aim and approach (style is probably also a dirty word). That declamation is fine when the subtlety of the works themselves supports the aesthetic ambition, but, when the works themselves are slapdash and thin, the rhetoric sounds hollow.
Contrary to what the press statement claims, obscuring clear and obvious readings does not, by itself, empower the viewer and activiate the viewing experience. More often than not, in this exhibition, obscurity bored this viewer. "Non-declarative" art declares, over and over again, the same things: ambiguity, indeterminacy, open-endedness. So-called declarative art declares the same things, but with the richness of clear content. Communication is always fraught with difficulties, even what seems crystal clear at first hearing, or first viewing.
Having got that off my breast, I must say I enjoyed very much the works of three artists in this exhibition. The drawings of my friend, Sally Tittmann, continue to provoke and suggest. I think the drawings' white frames do the works a disservice. They look like boxes against which the rock-like forms rattle. As such, the frames rob the forms of some of their suggestiveness.
Sally Tittmann, "Untitled (#56)," 2007. Pencil on Paper, 20 7/8 x 25 1/2 inches.
Howard Rosenthal's stones provide an interesting contrast with Tittmann's rocks. The stones emerge out of the blackness, unlike the airiness of the rocks in the white space. The hyper-realistic stones look the same, and to that extent, have their individuality erased. In contrast, each of Tittmann's rocks, despite their obvious pencil shading, is an individual entity in time and space.
Howard Rosenthal, "Rock 18," 2003. Charcoal and pastel on paper, 24 x 30 inches.
Michael Diaz's lines are made up of dashes (of different thicknesses), gaps, and erasures, on handmade Japanese Inbe paper. They have a meditative purity. One, not shown here, crawls from the middle of the right edge of the paper to the middle of the paper. It looks like a fine crack in the wall, a notion I find moving.
Michael Diaz, "Untitled #79" (detail), 2007. Pencil on handmade Japanese Inbe paper, 30 x 22 inches.