Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Death Of Hilton Kramer

Abstraction And Empathy
Wilhelm Worringer
Introduction by Hilton Kramer
Elephant Paperbacks

Review by Rory A.A. Hinton

Abstraction And Empathy

I am less interested in Wilhelm Worringer's classic book Abstraction And Empathy and more concerned with Hilton Kramer's introduction to it. However, my indirect interest is not a direct commentary on Worringer's worth. Much has been written about his psychology of style in modern art since it was first written in his 1906 doctoral dissertation, the year before Pablo Picasso painted his El Greco inspired Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon. Kramer's brief introduction is a noteworthy part of that written history, and evidence enough of the book's importance. The turn to the subject in modern art cannot be understood without it.
     My interest centers around two concerns. First, Kramer's reading of this classic text is as classic as it is, and should therefore be read by anyone interested in an influential view on the psychological basis of abstraction in modern art. Second, Kramer's brief introduction presents us with a hermeneutic key for understanding much of his critical work written over a very productive twenty year period for the T.S. Eliot inspired literary journal The New Criterion: from articles like "The Eakins Retrospective" in 1982 to "Does Abstract Art Have A Future?" in 2002.
     This key is the sine qua non for appreciating why Kramer was one of the most notable defenders of modernism in art during the latter half of the twentieth century. It also provides the interpretive basis for his idea that Pop Art was primarily a cultural, and not an artistic, assault on the entire pictorial tradition of modern art (an idea that conveniently renders it unworthy of any sustained critical response by those committed to Eliot's "common pursuit of true judgement"). He did not deny that Pop Art was a movement of note. He just denied it artistic merit, let alone influential longevity (despite the CondĂ© Nast brand of media success that "the Warhol phenomenon" found within the art world, as Kramer so brazenly describes it). Accordingly, Pop Art should be summarily dismissed as merely "the fallout of the 1960s counterculture," and should be understood as such by the artistic aristocracy. The double entendre of Kramer's 1987 obituary "The Death Of Andy Warhol," therefore, is pretty difficult to miss.
     One need only read Wayne Koestenbaum's Andy Warhol (let alone the recent scholarship upon which it is based) to experience serious pause when confronted with Kramer's hermeneutics of dismissal. Koestenbaum's smart biography contributes toward the convincing counterfactual claim that Kramer's Pop Art obit (written in response to the death of its chief representative on February 22, 1987) is a fallout of his own commitment to a conception of modern art that finds its basis in his reading of Abstraction And Empathy. And it is precisely this conception of modern art that Pop Art (especially in the work of Warhol) called into artistic question and left seriously wanting. I don't deny that Kramer's idea is noteworthy. I just deny it critical merit, at least as a criterion (old or new) used to dismiss Pop Art's aesthetic importance.
     What is Kramer's key? Answering this question requires a brief description of the raison d'ĂȘtre of Worringer's book. Worringer argues that the history of modern art is the history of artists working within a dynamic tension between two volitional tendencies: the will to empathy, and the will to abstraction. To be empathetic is to experience a settled confidence between the human species and the phenomena of the external world. Empathetic artists derive their sense of the beautiful from being able to personally identify with the objects of their artistic representation, thereby gaining a sense of personal identity in the process. They are realists: they have read their space, felt at home within it, and have naturally rendered it in their paintings. Renaissance art is realist in precisely this sense.
     In contrast, to be abstracted is to have experienced "the dread of space," to have felt alienated from it, and to have sought one's identifiable sense of the beautiful through less than realistic renderings (as exemplified by Egyptian, Byzantine, and Abstract Expressionist art). Worringer claims that the primal artistic impulse to abstract from perceptual reality is the result of the psychological need to achieve personal identity in the face of the subjective "confusion and obscurity of the world-picture." Worringer states: "The primal artistic impulse has nothing to do with the rendering of nature. It seeks after pure abstraction as the only possibility of repose ... It is the consummate expression, and the only expression of which man can conceive, of emancipation from all the contingency and temporality of the world-picture." Plato rears his mimetic head even here, in form(s) and in content: art is the existential process of producing an expressive product in response to the primal need to achieve identifiable certainty in an uncertain world (wherefore art thou, Aristotle?).
     While empathy and abstraction are, in principle, mutually exclusive tendencies, the history of modern art demonstrates a prolonged tension between them. You cannot understand Cubism as a movement, for example, without knowing about this tension. In fact, Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon is a first rate example of a painting that embodies it. Picasso confronts his own alienation of spacial depth by abstracting from the empathetic tradition of natural representation. He accomplishes this by using two-dimensional means to express three-dimensional dread. Cubism as therapy.
     The significane of Jackson Pollock's Full Fathom Five (1947) can be expressed in similar fashion. Pollock painted it to satiate an artistic need that is "the deepest and ultimate essence of all aesthetic experience." According to Worringer, this is the need for self-alienation. And self-alienation, so the story goes, is a necessary stage on life's contingent way toward determining self identity. To describe this painting as the result of "creative accident" only serves to show the psychological impulse behind it (and in Pollock's case 'psychological' was cashed out in Jungian terms). It is also not without note that its name derives from the following line from Shakespeare's The Tempest: "Full fathom five thy father lies / Of his bones are coral made / Those are pearls that were his eyes." Abstract Expressionism as therapy.
     The turn to the subject in modern art (from Picasso to Pollock), therefore, owes much to Worringer's psychology of style. It provides the basis for the claim that the difference between these two artists is only a difference in artistic degree, but not a difference in psychological kind: you abstract from scandalous space because it is something that cannot be empathetically faced.

Mildred's Dread

     Much of the content of the preceding five paragraphs owes its existence to Kramer's penchant for sympathetic commentary. His introduction alone is worth the price of the book. In fact, it was his reputation as a modern defender of conservative high culture that initially motivated me to read Abstraction And Empathy. My thinking was that if someone like Kramer thought Worringer was worthy of his critical attention (at least worthy enough to write an introduction), then I was willing to put forth the effort to understand why "[f]ew doctoral dissertations have come to occupy as important a place in the history of modernist art and criticism" as it does, and why it has such "enduring importance" as one of the "classic texts in the literature of modernism." 
     While reflecting upon how the relation between representation and abstraction relates to the question of whether abstract art has a future (especially in light of how the Minimalist movement determined its relative demise), Kramer writes the following in 2002: "As all of us know (but sometimes forget), abstract art - especially abstract painting - derives, aesthetically, from representational painting. Whatever the degree of purity abstraction can be said to attain, it cannot make claim to a virgin birth. If abstract painting could be said to have a genetic history, its DNA would instantly reveal its debt to ... the aesthetic vitality of representational painting." 
     According to Kramer's reading, empathy and abstraction are "the two fundamental aesthetic impulses known to human culture." Hence the enduring importance of Abstraction And Empathy (at least for Kramer). His reading of this classic text, and the central place of these two impulses in that reading, is the hermeneutic key behind the genetic history of his vitality and influence as an art critic. In particular, this key not only explains his reason for thinking why abstract painting was representationally derivative, but more importantly why Pop Art gets summerly dismissed as nothing but a cultural by-product. 
     How does Pop Art call this idea into artistic question and leave it seriously wanting? The logic behind Kramer's hermeneutics of dismissal is in the form of a disjunctive syllogism: art is either A or E (or both). If art is P (Pop Art, say), then it is neither Abstract nor Empathetic. Therefore, Pop Art is not art (despite its name). It must be something else ("the fallout of the 1960s counterculture," say). The issue here is not so much Kramer's logic, but the semantic framework that gives it sense. If you reject Kramer's inclusive premise ("art is either A or E"), then the most that can be said is that Pop Art is nothing but the artistic casualty of Kramer's critical commitment to Worringer's psychology of style. Kramer's premise can and should be rejected, along with the idea that it produces and the framework within which it functions.
     By rejecting the representational form and the psychological content of Kramer's modern framework, Pop Art replaces one hermeneutic key with another one. After Pop Art there are many-if-any keys (the more the merrier). You pay your money, you choose your key, and you open whatever door suits your artistic fancy. Kramer did not get Pop Art's aesthetic importance because he chose a key that assumes too much and delivers too little. It assumes too much by implicitly endorsing a subjectivist interpretation of modern art, despite postmodern critiques to the contrary (especially in the work of Martin Heidegger), and it delivers too little by not giving Pop Art the critical attention it rightly deserves (especially in the work of Andy Warhol). It lacks critical merit in precisely this sense. 
     Kramer disparaged that the most distinguishing characteristic of the prodigious outpouring of "commentary, homage, and celebrity-worship" found in the obituaries written in response to Warhol's death was "the way it confined itself to the terms which Warhol himself had set for the discussion of his life and work ... It was as if no language but Warhol's own - the language of hype - could be expected to have any meaning when it came to explaining just what it was that made him important." This disparaging refrain can be found in Kramer's further observation of the general tendency of the obituaries to "take refuge in [Warhol's] fame, in his personality, in his business affairs and his entourage, even in his wig, and leave the art more or less unexamined ... It turned out that almost no one could bring any conviction to the task of specifying what that achievement had consisted of."
     Warhol's achievement manifested itself in the very things in which Kramer finds fault. Arthur Danto correctly points out that one of Warhol's great artistic achievements was his creation of a "new kind of life for the artist to lead." To speak of his fame, his personality, his business affairs, his entourage, and even his wig, was the clearest instance of "specifying what [Warhol's] achievement had consisted of." By uniting art with a life stylishly led, Warhol overcame the historic tension between Worringer's volitional tendencies by simply ignoring them (with deep superficiality). Instead, he simply created a new criterion: art is what you can get away with. With this new criterion Warhol forced his friends and foes alike to use "the terms which Warhol himself had set for the discussion of his life and work." This is nothing new. The Philosophy Of Andy Warhol is as full of linguistic hype as Abstraction And Empathy. It all comes down to the brand of hype you use, and how much of it you can get away with. Like Pablo and Jack, Andy got away with much. 
     Warhol was not the only "cultural" casualty of Kramer's hype. Jean-Michel Basquiat was similarly dismissed. Kramer's inability to make modern sense of Basquiat's work forced him to focus his attention on the "liberal left-wing types" who "needed to make a bow in that direction (the disadvantaged, minorities, and so on)" as the culturally correct basis for why people took Basquiat so seriously. Since his work was neither abstract nor empathetic, how else could you understand why people liked Basquiat so much? Kramer's modern modus operandi is as clear as it is consistent: when in doubt, use the hermeneutics of dismissal and go cultural. In fact, Kramer's assessment of Basquiat's work is less than dismissive: "His contribution to art is so minuscule as to be practically nil." It might be practically nil (Kramer obviously had no use for him), but it certainly is not financially nil. Basquiat's Dos Cabezes (1982) sold for just over 7 million USD ($7,082,500.00) on November 10, 2010 at Christie's in New York. This is a gigantic price to pay for something so apparently minuscule. At least when it comes to the buying habits of the high culture that Kramer so desperately sought to create and promote, Andy and Jean-Michel had the last laugh.

Dos Cabezes (1982)
Jean-Michel Basquiat


     The artistic aristocracy to which Kramer belonged is better served by interpreting Warhol as one of their own. It serves Kramer's cause to realize that his hyped dismissal of Warhol's significance for high culture makes his criterion not-so-new. If any criterion is new now, its the one that follows from the following argument: if you take care of artistic freedom by promoting the idea that democracy is for society but not for culture, then the market will determine the "common pursuit of true judgement" through the dynamic tension between two all consuming tendencies: the will to buy, and the will to sell. These tendencies are based on taste. Taste is context still, and the context continually changes.
     By conflating fine and commercial art Andy created a new basis for an independent high culture, one that understands (and ultimately rejects) the modern assumption upon which the distinction between fine art and commercial art was based. He creates a new independence by by-passing the psychological component as a motivational impulse behind modern art, and replaces it with a capitalist one. If Warhol is right that good art is good business, then it follows that beauty is in the hand of the objective consumer, and not in the eye of the subjective beholder. Capitalism is an artistic ideal because it is a moral one. 
     The question is not whether an independent high culture is possible after Warhol's work. The question is whether those who have long associated themselves with the old high culture are willing to adopt Warhol's work as a model for the new artistic aristocracy at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This new high culture does not reject "commercial entertainment" as something beneath it (as Kramer maintained). It celebrates the "commercial" within "entertainment," uniting art with economics as the new conceptual basis for an independent high culture in the postmodern art world. 

Hilton Kramer

Hilton Kramer: March 25, 1928 - March 27, 2012.

Andy Warhol. The Philosophy Of Andy Warhol: From A To B And Back Again. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975.
Hal Foster. "Andy Paperbag." London Review Of Books. March, 2002.
Hilton Kramer. "The Eakins Retrospective." The New Criterion. September, 1982.
Hilton Kramer. "The Death Of Andy Warhol." The New Criterion. May, 1987. 
Hilton Kramer. "Does Abstract Art Have A Future?" The New Criterion. December, 2002.
Hilton Kramer, Roger Kimball. Counterpoints. Ivan R. Dee, 2007.
Martin Heidegger. "The Origin Of The Work Of Art." Off The Beaten Track. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Susan Sontag. "Fascinating Fascism." New York Review Of Books. February 06, 1975.
Tamra Davis. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child. Arthouse Films, 2010.
Tony Scherman, David Dalton. POP: The Genius Of Andy Warhol. Harper, 2009.
Wayne Koestenbaum. Andy Warhol. Viking (Penguin Group), 2001.
Wilhelm Worringer. Abstraction And Empathy. Ivan R. Dee, 1997.

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Truthful Manner Of Jeffrey Chong Wang

Review by Julie Hinton Walker


The youthful minds of the Mannerist painters, trained by the great masters of the High Renaissance, may have asked, “Where do we go with our art?” Feeling the achievements of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Michelangelo (Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, 1475-1564) and Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, c. 1490-1576) among others could not be matched, they may have concluded that the pinnacle had been reached. The High Renaissance Masters’ art adorned Heaven on Earth.
     We, of course, know this not to be true. Art did not reach a crescendo with Leonardo and Michelangelo only to decline thereafter. Art is as much a compound and cyclical process as it is inspired. As the evolution of art winds by, we have seen art beautifully serve as an expression of awareness, a form of communication and a path to seeking transcendence. All along, artists have approached ideas through art. Art is a language of ideas. The idea of Christianity inspired some of our most treasured paintings and cast all eyes to the heavens to understand mankind’s place in our universe. In time, we realized we were more than mere beings dwarfed by the immensity of a divine universe and soon came to recognize and celebrate human achievement which again, we immortalized in timeless art. Fuelled by personal inspiration, artists were then drawn inward to uncover a new world - a hidden world of secret and private thoughts which took art in an entirely new direction. This led to understanding the source of all ideas – the human mind and its gift of imagination. Today, art is not as much a means to approaching an idea as it is the idea becoming a means to approaching art.
     Jeffrey Chong Wang is a painter of our time. His portraiture and figurative works explore ideas. They present to us ideas of truth, reality, nature, singular and group complexities. His art is rich in symbolism, yet fresh to the eye. It takes us to bygone centuries and by comparison, shows us that as much as things change, things don’t really change all that much. We stand in an almost parallel time as those of the 15th and 16th centuries when artistic content and achievement underwent a refinement, and globalization influenced how we defined ourselves. It was an era marked with the psyche divided by the familiarity and safety of mankind as a collective, and the newfound fears of man distinguishing himself from a group. Mankind’s fears appear to be timeless. 
     Today, we seem to be facing a similar refinement, celebrating, yet further questioning the meaning of art and our place in this world. We face many of the same challenges as we continue questioning through religion and science all the while, refining our cultures. Jeffrey’s work, be it a portrait or a figurative composition, challenges the viewer to question. He presents to us the relation of one to another and the invisible that binds them together. We search to find the relation as we examine the tension Jeffrey creates between each figure. We look for truth as we try to understand the reality. What we see before us does not always match what lies under the surface. The subject matter, although classic at first appearance, has cracks in its porcelain surface. There is an off-balance that draws us in. We are cleverly offered a visual shovel to dig at the psyche and reveal what the silence distracts us from seeing. The shovel will score to find the weakness. It will break through at the fissures and rise to surface the truth that lies grounded below.
    As the pendulum swung through the Renaissance period, it passed through a number of highs, among them a redefined role for the artist. With higher education, no longer was an artisan employed by the Church only to illustrate the word of God. The fine arts came to be viewed just as important a discipline as math and science, and found its place among the formally educated. Renaissance artists, for the first time, began to experience recognition for their individuality and creative expression. Once math and science entered the realm of art and the rules of scientific perspective had been formulated, most famously by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446), the composition and subject matter of painting evolved at a tremendous rate. Working through these new rules of perspective, coupled with the growing understanding of how to render the human body at a deeper muscular and skeletal level, the artist learned to convey a heightened sense of realism. Mannerist painters continued to honour the human body, rendering with perfection all the grace, passion, and emotion generated through posture, facial expression, and gesture. This humanization in art is forever immortalized in Michelangelo’s fleeting moment before the touch of God’s finger to man. The Renaissance and Mannerist periods exemplified this transference of power from the Heavens above to mankind on Earth.
     Prevalent as the centre of a town’s geography and its people’s activities, the Church began losing its foothold in communities at about the same time as global exploration began. An institution under scrutiny now found itself in competition with the growing trend towards commerce and the resulting creation of an art market with wealthy merchants as the new patrons. Cathedral builders had long since turned their attention to ship building as the 15th century witnessed Colonial expansion on a grand scale. With continents newly discovered, developing international markets opened up to the trading of exotic commodities and souvenirs with an increasing exchange of new thoughts and ideas. Global trading and the divergence of money and power away from the Church facilitated in a shift of perception and with it, a difference in the treatment of subject matter in painting. Leading up to this period, painters portrayed biblical stories with the use of gargoyles and other-worldly creatures instilling fear so shelter would be sought within the Church. Illustrated to dominate humans, judgement of a higher order prevailed as human activity was slated to the background of a composition. With time, the over-crowded battleground of religious conflict and struggle hovering above the landscape turned earthbound and the human form came to dominate the foreground portraying those conflicts in what was to develop as an internal struggle. At first, divine figures mingled with man, but as the shift in awareness grew and the miraculous aspects of religion began to be questioned, divinity was rendered ever smaller eventually taking its place in the background. What developed was a graceful portrayal of a spiritual celebration. And, with the market in place to buy and sell paintings and sculpture, the value of art took on an entirely new meaning. A renaissance was well under way.
     Mannerism may have been the final swing of the pendulum of the Renaissance with its leading edge rooted in Italian soil. The mannerist movement pumped its blood through the veins of its young artists hungry for fresh ideas. They had their stories of old; the biblical stories they studied and learned their craft by. Once fully accepted and now in part questioned, these biblical narratives were diminishing and allegory was settling into its new mythology. A sense of spirituality was finding its place in the psyche of man. Inspiration shifted as artists internalized the narratives, changing art much in the same way the humanization of it did. The Mannerist El Greco (Domenikos Theotocopoulos, 1541-1614), trained in Venice and eventually settling in Toledo, Spain, helped shape and define Mannerism with his graceful style of elongated figures and classical subject matter rendered with certain spirituality and empathy. Mannerism differed throughout Europe. Further north, the Flemish painters of the 15th century also developed their ideas and spread their innovations to Spanish, German, and French painters. There was a variety of regional styles lending their signature to and aft the Renaissance period. Classical subject matter was being superseded by the imagination of individual artists. Each learned their craft from their masters and honed their skills. The human form came to dominate compositions as the ideas of Christianity were acted out. And, it was this acting out as opposed to being acted upon that empowered the human spirit and gave it centre stage in our art.
     Once culture outgrew the confines of religion and was free to be molded by the hands of wealthy families, the Church still had its voice. With a growing confidence and independence, society felt less physically threatened, but residual fear internalized plaguing the mind. The institution of church had kept people safe from nature for so long. How, now, would mankind protect itself? This became the subject matter for one artist Hieronymus Bosch (d. 1516). With his prophetic Salvador Dali-like monsters and orgy scenes of hopelessness, Bosch’s work very well could have marked the beginning of painting becoming less about the physical world and more about what goes on in the mind. He explored coming to terms with a slow and growing disconnect with the Church. As individuals began to control their own destiny, Bosch seems to have been experimenting with the idea of how mankind would survive without divine guidance. It seems, it was not a pretty sight. Hell on Earth could be the conclusion drawn from his other-worldly imagination. He may also have been suggesting that it was not one Hell that existed. With his dreamy scenarios and disconnected themes, he may have come to realize the potential for many Hells to exist within each one of us.
     As Bosch set to explore the landscape of the mind, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525-1569) turned his attentions to the political and domestic rhythms of peasant life with humour and joy replacing fear and doom. Bruegel the Elder found his patrons amongst the independently rich and did not need to take church commissions. In his world, Bosch’s fears were overcome, or suppressed and life had settled into comfortable activity and satisfying distractions. Surrounded by nature, people went about their day to days feeling safe in their environment. This trend continued in the work of Jan Bruegel the Elder (1568-1625), son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Beautiful gardens and natural settings staged the celebration of human activity much like his father’s. Any hint of Christianity became symbolic as religion turned spiritual and philosophy constructed its mythology.
     Jeffrey’s work embodies all of this 400 year old learning curve. With forceful and radiant figures foremost in the composition, his landscapes have a theatrical tone; almost dream-like and although derived from reality, could in fact be no actual place. In his work, we see the reminiscences of Jean Fouquet (c. 1420-1481), a great manuscript illustrator whose sculptural figurative work resembled a staged play. His compositions appear propped and set-ready waiting for the actors to be called to their place under the lights. There exists this same stillness to Jeffrey’s work. On the surface, all appears to be quiet and unchanging. But, like an actor on cue to speak, boiling just below the surface is a cauldron of activity and emotion. Jeffrey’s groupings are visually a connected mass. But, as each elegant figure is revealed, one senses something amiss and the viewer is drawn to the silent and invisible spaces between the figures to find the disconnect and sense why these characters have been brought together in the first place. As one searches, some of the distances appear to be insurmountable.

Early Reproduction of El Greco's Laocoon


     In Jeffrey’s work, we can neither accept at face value, nor take anything for granted. He paints figuratively exploring the revelation of reality as it is balanced between the singular secret truth of an individual and the perceived open truth inspired by togetherness. His backgrounds are intuitive frontiers. His figures are as fleeting as a moment. We see them, but only for an instant; as though caught and existing in spaces between one moment and the next, yet they are enduring in their classical poses. The costuming is veiled. Unable to see below the surface, clues to an individual’s history are rendered in exquisite fabrics and intricate design. As you peer at the faces and into the eyes especially, the smooth veneer of reality shows hairline fractures. The strange monsters that once roamed Bosch’s landscapes now exist in the eyes of a few of these faces. On the surface, appears order and grace, but just below - just behind the eyes - wages a battle against the unknown and chaotic. There exists a delicate balancing act pinning conformity against derangement. This undercurrent, this energy waits for form; it waits to be realized. Twisted glances and contoured expressions expose impulses fighting to rise triumphant. If there is a Hell, perhaps as Bosch intimated, it does not exist on Earth, but instead dwells in the mind of each of us. It dwells in the silence it thrives on and lurks in the space of time it takes for inspiration to create a moment and for that moment to create truth. It is this silence we experience in the surface tension of Jeffrey’s work. The tension as truth struggles to find clarity, or gives in to distortion and corruption; even whimsy. It is a mirrored look at our own time in its entire veiled, complex, detached, humorous and over-loaded matrix. There seems to be something always just out of reach …
     From the Byzantine to the Baroque period, artists’ perceptions and their tools underwent an evolution that transformed subject matter. The mediums went from egg tempera on plaster to oil on wood and fabric. This transition offered a translucency to paint furthering the effects of perspective and light allowing a vast portrayal of emotion through a greater range of light and shadow. With the Mannerists’ influence, the Baroque artists excelled in their apprenticeships and applied their skills of observation onto the human condition. By internalizing their subject matter, it became less about the glory of the human form and more about the exploration of the interior world (symbolic of the mind) where indoor activity, lit mostly by a window, veiled the people conducting their day to day business with a sense of protection and yearning. Many went about their business; others looked towards the light perhaps in quest of something better, or in memory of another time. With the depiction of everyday life, human virtue and morality was judged by peers instead of a higher order signalling the recognition that our thoughts are as much a part of our reality as our senses. Earth was no longer seen as the centre of the universe, yet an individual had become the centre of his own world and thus, accountable for his actions with the power to veto those of others. All worlds were the parts that made up the sum of one world.
     Within Jeffrey Chong Wang, we feel the pioneer spirit of those young and daring minds of the 16th century and it is of no coincidence that in these times, Jeffrey would find solidarity with the Mannerists. We find ourselves in a place of simultaneous varying styles in art. We may come to know this period as a new variation on an old Conceptual theme: the idea of art. Where art was once the tool, we have turned our attentions to the tool itself to explore its qualities, limitations and potential. As science continues to verge on tremendous breakthroughs challenging long-standing beliefs, our world is in flux over the physical realities we thought we understood so well. Jeffrey challenges us not to accept reality at face value. We are compelled to look deeper, all the while looking out to new frontiers. There may not be one collective reality, but instead, a reality for each of us. Where and how do they converge?
     It is our challenge to harmonize and co-exist. Harmonization of truth and reality may well take place in the moments and silent spaces existing between us; always adapting, always in motion. We once believed that reality was divine intervention and something feared. Now, we own our potential and know of what we control. We fear corruption. We fear the loss of control, the loss of wealth, of love, trust and our grasp on what we are. We are still asking the same questions from 400 years ago. Do not see it as a full circle in search of an end, but as a graceful means to continue to question. Neither religion, nor science has all the answers. One certainty remains – inspiration, imagination and ideas will keep us searching and keep artists painting.