Until the late 1960s, he
had tried, despite his own aesthetic judgement,
to appreciate abstract art. He had visited galleries across
the world to study works by Picasso, Braque,
Kandinsky, Mondrian, Mondigliani, De Stijl, Miró
and other masters. He had conceded a
modicum of technical competence in some
compositions, but retained the suspicion that
these painters had conspired, somehow, to
perpetrate the biggest practical joke of all time.
movement had reinforced his hypothesis. Even the
closest study of pieces by Tobey, Pollock, de
Kooning and Rothko failed to reveal any technical
skill beyond that of a poorly coordinated
He accepted that abstract
art could be seen as a response to photography.
With the advent of the camera, painting had lost
a purpose in recording and representing the world.
Even historical or mythical scenes could be posed
and captured on film. This sometimes led him to
doubt his conspiracy theory. Perhaps it had been
legitimate for painting to seek radical new
routes, even if some had halted in
Then he saw Telephone
Richard Estes. He had been stunned by a painting
which not only replaced a photograph, but
surpassed it. Photorealism had given the artist control of
detail that a mere camera would have been forced
to delegate to the serendipity of the moment. The
brush could eclipse the lens.
In an instant he realised
that the abstract masters must have
known that photorealism was possible. Their 'art'
had been unnecessary. It had all,
without doubt, been a lazy, self-indulgent scam.
Perhaps this deception, of itself, was the
art that the perpetrators had
intended to create - a living installation of
deluded, suggestible connoisseurs claiming to
discern meaning in nonsense?
Now that he had finally
understood, he felt no anger towards the
artists. It was very, very funny.
Nevertheless, he recognised the unfairness upon
those who remained innocent victims of this
practical joke. He sympathised with the ultimate
humiliation of those who still struggled to find
complex pseudo-intellectual language to attribute
meaning to the meaningless; those who battled to
suppress any nagging, philistinian thought that a
ten million pound canvas might resemble the
product of small child with a crayon or a cat
having been sick.
Justice had to be done; but
justice appropriate to the crime. As he emerged
into sunlight from the womb of the Estes
exhibition, the Abstract Avenger was born.
The Avenger listed one
representative work by each of thirty
crapstract masters. He then revisited
the galleries where each hung, taking covert
photographs and making detailed notes of floor-plans
and gallery routines.
Even now, those of us who
came to know of his ten year mission do not fully
understand how the Abstract Avenger was
subsequently able to modify each painting,
unobserved. Even less, how those changes have
remained undetected for the past quarter century.
Nevertheless, I have always
enjoyed a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in
New York City to see Pollock's
One: Number 31,
or a visit to the Miró Foundation in Barcelona
to view Miros
or a visit to Londons Tate Modern to see Mondrians
Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue.
When using the correct
photosensitive glasses, the Avengers words,
This Work Is Total Bollocks!!!,
dominate each of these paintings - and the twenty-seven
Yesterday, the Abstract
Avenger died peacefully in his sleep. I must now
fulfil his final instruction by posting this
obituary to the worlds press together with
the glasses that reveal abstract art in its true