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Distributed for Intellect Ltd

Painting in the 1980s

Reimagining the Medium

Explores the major painters of the 1980s.

This book is the first to explore major painters of the 1980s in depth and to analyze the factors that shaped art from the period. Accessible to both novice and specialist, Painting in the 1980s details where and how painting embodied the zeitgeist in original fusions of style and content. Gallerists, curators, and art historians assigned labels such as New Image Painting, Neo-Expressionism, Italian Transavanguardia, Neo-Geo, and the blanket designation of Postmodernism to categorize painting in this era, yet these classifications denote a false sense of homogeneity. This book’s narrative aims to excavate and analyze the art and ideas that shaped each artist’s style and their diverse and often ambiguous content. 

304 pages | 104 color plates | 6 3/4 x 9 1/2

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"Erpf energetically and cogently takes on the chaotic, polymorphous art scene of the 1980s where localism collided with the first inklings of globalism. Focusing on the three arenas familiar to denizens of the decade—the United States, Germany and Italy—she examines how abstraction and figuration jostled one another for primacy. What we see in hindsight is the active interconnection between these stylistic approaches, the role of the legacies of the immediate pasts in those areas in shaping the work, and how the work of artists she considers propelled art to new horizons, albeit not according to usual art historical orthodoxies and definitions."

Lowery Stokes Sims, Kress-Beinecke Professor, National Gallery of Art's Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts

"As 'indispensable' as Gerhard Richter described painting to life, this book brilliantly weaves together accounts of painting in its decade of resurgence. Featuring close analysis alongside interviews with key participants, the book makes for a crucial companion to understanding this vital period of art history."

Eleanor Nairne, Barbican Art Gallery

"The re-emergence of painting in the 1980s in Europe and the United States is as exciting as it is confusing. In her in-depth analysis, Erpf counters the false sense of homogeneity and problematic art historical labels attached to painterly practices of that era. Bypassing academic theories, hers is a human and empathic approach towards individual artists at work in the studio. Combining knowledge and passion, her book shines a clarifying light on the last great reset in the history of painting."

Dominic van den Boogerd, De Ateliers

Table of Contents



1. New Image Painting: A Prelude to the 1980s

2. Painting as Puzzle: The Downtown New York Art World of the 1980s

3. Abstraction: Ideas about the Thing and the Thing Itself

4. Addressing Germany’s Past: Painting in a Divided Nation

5. A Sense of Place: The Italian Transavanguardia

6. Worthy Misfits: Defying Categorization




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