Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


History of Art


This dissertation examines transformations in painting during the 1960s. Countering repeated pronouncements of its “death” and subsequent diagnoses of its persistence in melancholic form, my dissertation argues that painting was by no means moribund,nor was its ongoing practice a situation of studious disavowal. Instead, I assert and explore the vitality and elasticity of abstract painting through detailed case studies of Frank Stella’s first shaped canvases, Anne Truitt’s three-dimensional paintings, and Robert Ryman’s repetitive white paintings. Each of these artists believed they were fundamentally making paintings, that is to say neither hybrids nor pictorial sculptures. They maintained painting, as a medium, still mattered, even if not in terms of an ontology or absolute. In prying the work of Stella, Truitt, and Ryman from the paradigms of opticality and objecthood, my dissertation promises to revise the discourse on abstract painting in the 1960s by focusing not on what painting had been and was no longer, but rather, on what, during the 1960s, it was still becoming.


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