No, not quite
My painting of Theseus fighting the Minotaur was a big hit at the faculty show recently. The kids loved it. Of course they would, a hero battling a monster is right up their alley. But on another level, their praise meant a lot to me. These are kids used to playing video games that can be more vividly real-looking than life itself. That a painted image could catch and hold their attention meant a lot to me. Which leads me to the conclusion that not only am I a pretty good painter, but that painting itself still has lots of life left in it.
People have been pronouncing painting to be dead ever since photography was invented around 1839. Critics eagerly wrote its death certificate and obituary many times over in the past 40 years, and yet, it persists. The critic Peter Schejldahl about 20 years ago said that painting has become an underground art form. Perhaps. It hasn't quite disappeared entirely from the big international contemporary art shows, the Biennials and Events. But, it is being crowded out by installations and related multi-media art forms.
Painting flourishes on the walls of buildings in the Bronx and in parts of Brooklyn, and some of it is quite good. Not all of it is vandalism. Store owners will commission spray-can artists to paint a wall to attract attention and business. Bereaved families will commission memorial walls, painted memorials on street corners, especially for deceased young people. It seems to me that these are continuations of very old social functions for painting.
Something else that really strikes me about so much contemporary art, at least the official stuff in the gallery, museum, academia circuit, is that it is so patronage dependent. Those big multi-media spectacles require a big down payment in order to happen. These artists spend as much time as movie producers hitting up corporations and foundations for money. Without those grants, these things just aren't going to happen. It seems to me that an anti-corporate message funded by corporate money is a compromised message. Of course, not all artists take an anti-establishment view. Many these days embrace the corporate consumer culture with enthusiasm (or resignation). Some are happy to cheer lead for international capitalism. In return, international capital embraces them for the prestige, glamor, and edge these artists can bring.
And yet, in a world so full of vivid and noisy distractions competing for our attention, painting quietly continues to flourish.
I predict that painting will be dead only when Marcel Duchamp's prophecy about using a Rembrandt for an ironing board comes true.