Art history and art criticism have established a narration of sudden breaking points for the US-American artistic production since the 1960s: during the 1960s, so the story goes, artists turned away from painting to concentrate on conceptual approaches, performance, video, film, installation, etc. A decade later, at the beginning of the 1980s, they returned to traditional methods of painting at least in part for commercial reasons. This narration, which has been presented most prominently by critics associated with the journal October, has resulted in the fact that both scholarly and critical analyses of the role of painting for the art of the 1960s and 1970s are all but non-existent.
As of now it has also generally been disregarded that a number of these artists, who are considered representatives of avant-gardist movements like Land Art, Installation or Performance, have actually never stopped painting. The fact that they have worked simultaneously in both media, which informed and influenced each other, might be symptomatic of the strength of the underlying “Dispositiv”. Similarly, artists such as Michael Snow, Tony Conrad or Robert Breer reflect the medium of film from the perspective of painting. In studying the “Dispositiv” of painting within American art of the 1960s and 1970s, we would like to initiate a rethinking of art historical accounts of these decades. This aims to discuss the immense variety of artistic media and forms from the perspective of painting – not by reapplying a restrictive Greenbergian definition of painting but by discussing the terms and terminology of painting instead.