Dream of youth. Back in 1981, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh published an essay in October magazine called “Figures of Authority, Ciphers of Regression; Notes on the Return of Representation in European Painting.” Buchloh’s essay was about the way representation keeps returning in modern art, and he made an analogy between the representation of the World War I period and that of recent years, both of which he referred to (in a phrase from the Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci) as “morbid symptoms.” According to Buchloh, the return to (or continuation of) painted representation re-fleas “an undialectical fixation on Utopian thought”; the artists become “ciphers of an enforced regression.” Like many recent critiques of painting or representation said to be based on a socio-historical approach, Buchloh’s essay sifts out to an exercise in taste, separating what he likes (abstract,...

 
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