Marcel Broodthaers and Abstraction’s Flag-makers

THE DAILY PIC: At Alden Projects, a flyer blends abstractionism and nationalism.


THE DAILY PIC (#1534): Here’s the last of my columns on the show of Marcel Broodthaers documents at Alden Projects in New York. (Do I hear a sigh of relief from my readers, or is that my sigh I’m hearing? – the Belgian is a challenge to write about .)

Today’s Pic features an announcement for the 1967 summer exhibition at the Galerie Saint-Laurent in Brussels, an avant-garde bookstore-cum-gallery to which Broodthaers was very closely attached. It says that the show is a national homage to art criticism (how could I resist that?) and that the opening will include an artists’ foot race.

There’s no proof that the announcement was designed by Broodthaers, but the fact that it’s built around the Belgian flag links it to other (pseudo-)nationalist moments in his art.

Something else makes me think it’s by him: Like the Op Art-y shirt he was wearing in yesterday’s Pic, today’s piece is, I think, a nod to the hard-edge abstraction that was so important, still, in the 1960s. We’ve so rewritten the history of that era’s art world in terms of its winners – the conceptualists and other content-based artists – that we’ve almost forgotten the way abstraction was still billing itself as the dominant vanguard form, and mostly being accepted as such. I don’t think Broodthaers could have made the challenging work he did if he hadn’t had abstraction to challenge.

Even his Belgian flags would have meant less without Barnett Newman, Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland to compare them to.

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