Jerry Saltz and That Old Time Metaphysics

I may be a zombie formalist. After all, the “good old days of abstraction” serve as a point of reference for my practice; I employ “haggard shades of pale” and eschew “complex structural presences”; I make art that “looks handmade” although “it’s printed” (Jerry Saltz, Zombies on the Walls: Why Does So Much New Abstraction Look the Same?). Yet Saltz’s romanticism---and his longing for presence---seems quaint, particularly at a time when so many painters (myself included) feel compelled to examine what Peter Weibel calls mediated visuality. In a lecture republished in the 2010 anthology Contemporary Painting in Context, Weibel explains, "Liberated from all reference, painting's abstract code floats about in a free movement, adapting itself, metamorphosing into a play of differences." As topical as this condition of rootlessness may be, it is also one of painting's most enduring features.