Steinberg on the Flatbed Picture Plane Analytical Essay

Steinberg on the Flatbed Picture Plane
An analysis of the Flatbed picture plane form of space art as described by Leo Steinberg in "The Flatbed Picture Plane".
# 154165 | 803 words | 1 source | 2014 | LB
Published on Apr 21, 2015 in Art (Artists) , Art (History) , Art (Painting)

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The Flatbed picture plane is a pictorial space that emerged in the 1960s through the works of various artists, most notably by Robert Rauschenberg who is considered as the father of this unique surface. Leo Steinberg, a well acclaimed American art critic studies this pictorial space in the excerpt "The Flatbed Picture Plane" from "Reflections on the State of Criticism", published in 1972. This text urges us to ask, how does Steinberg introduce the Flatbed pictorial space art and its main ideas in his text? In order to answer this question, Steinberg first explains the concept and uniqueness of the horizontality presented by this surface, and then moves on to explain the works of Rauschenberg that pioneered this form of art that by presenting explicitly the difference between this space and other forms of pictorial art, mainly Renaissance and Abstract expressionism.

From the Paper:

"Steinberg begins his writing by explaining the name of this pictorial space. It refers to the horizontal printing surface, relating to the way the artist and viewer conceive the picture plane, its imaginative confrontations, since even the angulation with respect to the human posture is the precondition of its changed content. For Steinberg, the Flatbed picture plane differs from Renaissance and Abstract Expressionismmovements in its "posture". The latter two movements had a different visualisation of art than that of flatbed space, renaissance painters were encouraged to represent reality, a space which a viewer can walk into, and thus required a certain verticality to exist, that of the human posture. This same idea of verticality was passed on into modernism, as painters still confronted their paintings in a vertical manner and style in order to get acquainted with it.On the other hand, Steinberg believes that the Flatbed picture planeno longer simulates vertical fields, but opaque flatbed horizontals, meaning that these paintings no longer depended on human posture as a reference but to any receptor surface on which data is entered.
"For Steinberg, it is certain that the foundation of the Flatbed artistic language did not occur overnight or by a single artist, but it remains mandatory to mention the work of Rauschenberg on the New York art scene starting from the early 50s to the mid-60s as it marked a great shift. This shift is obvious in his painting "White Painting with Numbers", painted in 1949, Rauschenberg painting is, as Steinberg says, "A work surface that cannot be construed into anything else. Up and down are as subtly confounded as positive-negative"p(950). And thus, Rauschenberg changes the imaginative confrontation between the viewer and the piece of art. Furthermore, the next step this great artist took was to experiment with different material. It became clear that a space that had to change the viewer's whole relationship to the painting had to be created on physical material proper to plans and surfaces. Although this approach did work, other ways also mediated the change of the viewer's imaginative confrontation from vertical to horizontal."

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