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New Image Painting

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A vague term applied since the late 1970s to the work of certain painters who employ a strident figurative style, often with cartoon-like imagery and abrasive handling owing something to Neo-Expressionism. The term was given currency by an exhibition entitled ‘New Image Painting’ at the Whitney Museum, New York, in 1978. The accompanying catalogue unhelpfully informs us that the New Image painters ‘felt free to manipulate the image on canvas so that it can be experienced as a physical object, an abstract configuration, a psychological associative, a receptacle for applied paint, an analytically systemized exercise, an ambiguous quasi-narrative, a specifically non-specific experience, a vehicle for formalist explorations or combinations of any’. Philip Guston, who in the 1970s abandoned Abstract Expressionism for a comic-strip style of figuration, is regarded as the progenitor of New Image Painting. Other American artists who have been labelled New Image Painters include Jennifer Bartlett (b1941), Jonathan Borofsky (b1942), and Susan Rothenberg (b1945). In Britain the term ‘New Image’ has been applied particularly to painters of the 1980s Glasgow School.

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