Just a brief introduction to some of my recent thinking, and some texts that I'll be working on for the next year or so in anticipation of an abstract painting exhibition at Anderson Gallery in Fall 2014.
Abstraction is seen as a type of artwork, but not as a possible subject matter of artwork. I don't think this has anything to do with the more popular digital media, time-based work, and Relational Aesthetics/ Social engagement trends in contemporary art, I think that it has a lot to do with how we see abstraction and the history of art.
This historical relegation, I might argue, stems from an ability to systematically differentiate representation from abstraction and is a method of distinguishing works. It is understandable as a category, but most artists that work abstractly would offer that abstraction is more than a category. I'm not referring to some quasi-physical meaning that comes from "the search", I am referring more directly to abstraction and its ability to be meaningful.
I think that we are still dealing with this division (of the categories of representation/abstraction) in contemporary art, as artists, viewers, collectors, and historians. It is difficult for us to articulate that abstraction is what a painting looks like, but not that it can be (or reference) subject matter.
More to come on these ideas...in the meantime, there is a great interview with Paul Behnke on Painter's Table called "The Ability of Paint" concerning his exhibition Eight Painters at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, it is well worth the read.