New New Painters

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The New New Painters is a group with a core of eleven abstract artists that began forming in 1978 coincident with the further development of acrylic gel paint invented by the paint chemist Sam Golden[1]. The NNP as they are now called, came from the roots of Jackson Pollock and Abstract Expressionism, The New York School, and Color Field (Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland from the Washington Color School, Helen Frankenthaler[2], Russian-born Jules Olitski, Larry Poons, and others). The Color Field artists worked by staining on raw canvas, in close value, high key colors, often large scale. The artists of The New New Painters came together with a desire to move forward into a new kind of painting using acrylic gels. Unofficially the group members were exhibiting together in smaller groups up until 1992 when Gerald Piltzer asked Kenworth W. Moffett[3] to curate an exhibit in his new gallery[4] in Paris, France under the name "New New Painting". The term "New New Painting" was coined in a conversation between Graham Peacock and John Gittins and was used by Piltzer for the Paris Show and the hardcover catalog of the same name.

Kenworth W. Moffett championed this group from its earliest inception, despite resistance from the Color Field painters, the art world at large, and Clement Greenberg, art critic. Moffett has staunchly submitted that The New New Painters had been overlooked by the New York City art world. Moffett wrote in 1992 in the Paris Exhibition catalogue "While not a formal organization, the artists featured in this book all know each other and feel themselves to be part of a group with a shared sensibility and common interests, just like the Impressionists, the Fauves, the Cubists, the Surrealists and the Abstract Expressionists before them. They all live in North America - in small towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts in the United States, and in the larger cities of Toronto and Edmonton in Canada. Many of them are still in their forties and in my view constitute the most exciting new movement or 'wave' of painters to appear in twenty-five years. For the first time since Color Field and Minimalism, modernist art has a whole new look and feel. It stands out by its aggressive aggressiveness of relief, texture, color and drawing."[5]

In the same article, Moffett writes further: "Two strikingly novel features of the new work are very bright color - often fluorescent - and very thick, plastic paint"[5] and from Marcel Paquet: "Thus, far from having been just a quick-fire, Abstract Expressionism has cleared the path to a new aesthetics, to a non-organic, multi-sensorial space in which the New Acrylic Painters are already ranking quite high. These young and resolute painters harbour the proof that art did not die at the end of Renaissance, but that it is just confronted at entirely new tasks-the first being to create a beauty of a new world."


Donald Kuspit said about the New New Painters in 1996: "They have broken out of the sterile, depleted cul de sac of post-painterly abstraction, bringing new life and intensity—depth and energy—to alloverness, in effect resurrecting it as a viable medium of creativity."[6]

In his essay New New Painting and the History of American-Style Abstraction, the critic David Carrier said in 1999: "the New New Painters are providing some exciting fundamentally original ideas about how to understand abstraction ... I greatly admire the New New Painters for their determined persistence and their indifference to mere fashion."[7]

The two quotes above highlight the artistic inspiration and motivation of the New New Painters: to define art on its own terms, break out of the confines imposed by academics, and extend the path laid out by those going before.

It's certainly valid to discuss the New New Painters based on the inspiration of Pollock, Hofmann and Louis, later Bush, Noland, Olitski, and Poons, but we also have to acknowledge the role of the acrylic medium that allowed the innovations of the New New Painters: the acrylic gel of Sam Golden[8].

Sam started out manufacturing paints for the artist community with his uncle Leonard Bocour in New York City. Bocour Artist Colors became a hangout for artists of the day including Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, and Morris Louis. After World War II, Sam rediscovered a "sticky goo" he had been working on and in subsequent years, refined it and developed a business around it of supplying emerging artists of the late '70s with the material sought out.



  1. ^ Sam Golden, Paintmaking Pioneer, Sam Golden's eulogy at Golden Artist Colors.

  2. ^ 'Color Field' Artists Found a Different Way, Frankenthaler influences the Color Field painters

  3. ^ Kenworth Moffett biography, Ken discusses the origins of New New Painting.

  4. ^ Galerie Piltzer, The 1996 show is referenced in the Archives.

  5. ^ a b Kenworth Moffett excerpt, Exhibition introduction, Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporaine: Nice France.

  6. ^ Kuspit, Donald (1996) "Excess and Intimacy: Painting Besides and Inside Itself", New New Painting. ISBN 0-9655443-0-3

  7. ^ Carrier, David (1999) "New New Painting and History of American-Style Abstraction", The New New Painters. Flint Institute of Art, ISBN 0-939896-19-2

  8. ^ Ken Carpenter, Art in America, Ken talks about New New and introduces Sam Golden.