The monochrome - a single colour of paint applied over the entirety of a canvas - remains one of the more contentious modernist artistic inventions. But whilst the manufacture of these 'pictures of nothing' was ostensibly straightforward, their subsequent theorisation has been anything but. More than a history, Monochrome: Darkness and Light in Contemporary Art is the first account of the monochrome's lively role in contemporary art. Liberated from the burden of representation, the monochrome first stood for emancipation: an ideological and artistic impulse that characterised the avant-garde of the early twentieth century. Historically, the monochrome embodied the most extreme form of abstraction and pure materiality. Yet more recently, adaptations of the art form have focused on a broader range of cultural and interpretive contexts. Provocative, innovative and timely, this book argues that the latest artistic strategies go beyond stylistic concerns and instead seek to re-engage with ideas around authorship, process and the conditions of the visible as they are given and understood through both light and darkness.
Discussing works by artists such as Katie Paterson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Tom Friedman, Bruno Jakob, Sherrie Levine and Ceal Floyer, the book shows that the debates around an artwork's form and its possibility for meaning that the monochrome first engendered remain very much alive in contemporary visual culture.
Craig Staff is Reader in Fine Art at the University of Northampton. He is author of After Modernist Painting: The History of A Contemporary Practice (I.B.Tauris, 2013) and Modernist Painting and Materiality (2011). His current research focuses on art historiography, contemporary painting and modernism.