Dialogues: Curated by Jan Krugier

The (Re)Emergence of Language in Art

I. Art. Dactyl Foundation was established in 1996, “in the evening of the postmodern day,” in response to the critical postures assumed in that period, which was then nearing its end. We were concerned to heal the breach that had widened between classical and contemporary art. To this end, we developed and have provided support for an aesthetic that is informed by science, history, and philosophy. Our visual art exhibitions are supplemented with research and conferences that reconnect contemporary art with its past so that in its future it may have optimum adaptability and complexity. With “Dialogues,” we continue to further our goals, presenting visual languages that unite disparate genres and times. That art is a language — a self-organized set of enabling constraints, emergent, not prescribed, poetic in its logic, malleable in its rules — is what an exhibition such this so aptly demonstrates. Selected by Jan Krugier Gallery, each work in this show reflects a well-developed sense of aesthetics, a sense which we hope to explore using tools of complexity science and triadic semiotics, areas of research that began to develop dramatically at the end of postmodernism and helped to mark its close. Our intention, then, is not to return to an outmoded humanism or essentialism, but to help usher in the new era of emergence.

The theory of emergence, as cultural provocateur, is not prescriptive. It does not have preferences for two dimensions, nor does it limit its subject matter, nor exclude a genre or medium, nor does it stipulate art’s appearance in any way. Instead it is a theory that helps us understand what creativity is, all the while insisting that its actual products will always be inherently unpredictable. It is not a pluralism that we advocate here, a mere tolerance of contradictory aesthetics. Ours is an attempt to understand what is common to all forms of creativity.

As the works in this exhibition speak, each to each, they form a new dialect. Difference and discord, with sufficient communication, tend naturally to concord. There is an aliveness to this collection that would never form out of homogeneity, and yet we arrive in the end with a new unity all the same. E pluribus unum. Bringing these disparate works into a coherent relation, Krugier uses the aesthetic language that he has developed carefully and over time. When one can identify a painting as a Turner, a Picasso, or a Bacon, one has learned to speak with it. The language it speaks is emergent,that is, beginning at a lower level with simple rules, a whole appears that cannot be reduced to those rules. If other paintings share the language, it is not in any mechanistic way that they come to know it and speak it too. It comes to the others as it came to the first, through experience. This dialogue runs both ways in time. A language that was silent in the past can be made audible by future works. Max Ernst’s Moon II is Baconesc. Ingres speaks Picasso. Soulages is an incipient Hugo. Many of these works have a Turneresc atmosphere that is borne out by being somewhat monochromatic, or by otherwise having a chromatic coherency, which, like Whitman’s poetry, admits differences and even contradictions. It is because of rather than despite difference that things do hold together (Fletcher 2003).  Such coherency is an effect one finds in nature’s underpainting, a background or sky that shines through, reflects upon, and unites the composition. Coorte, Goya, Monet, Music, and Petlin, achieve this effect with a single hue or light and shade. Differently in Barcelo, Beckmann, Bonnard, Dubuffet, Fehr, Goodwin, and Torres-Garcia, we see a chromatic coherency, which involves triadic relations. As we learned from Goethe, witnessed in pointillism, and found again in complexity science-inspired color theory, color has no inherent quality in and of itself but affects only in relation to others, and the whole is qualitatively different from the sum of its parts.

Each of these pieces have, without exception, a semiotic property. Whether highly abstracted or more literal, each piece refers to something not materially there. In some works it is only a feeling

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