Nexus, veil: Robert Ryman and the equivocal spaces of abstraction

Virgoe, April ORCID logoORCID: (2021) Nexus, veil: Robert Ryman and the equivocal spaces of abstraction. Journal of Contemporary Painting, 7 (1-2). pp. 39-59. ISSN 2052-6709


This article, published in the Journal of Contemporary Painting, focuses on the Surface Veil series of paintings by American abstract painter Robert Ryman (1930-2019) who defined his work as 'realist' and is generally discussed in materialist and literalist terms. This series of paintings mark a critical point in the relationship between his work and the gallery wall, as Ryman begins complicating and obscuring the definition of edge and the location of the picture’s surface. Their apparent simplicity belies a spatial complexity, and, Virgoe argues, Ryman’s matter-of-fact materialism produces an excess of painterly effect and illusion. Two texts, Hubert Damisch’s A Theory of /Cloud/, and Hanneke Grootenboer’s The Rhetoric of Perspective, are brought together to examine the complex and contradictory spaces in Ryman’s paintings.

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