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Eight Women

Medium:Oil on canvas
Size inches:50 x 40
Size cm:127 x 101.6
Location:Private Collection, Kalamazoo, Michigan

(in addition to List of Landscapes) another painting-list of images is called Eight Women. This canvas juxtaposes 36 details of eight paintings -- close-up enlargements and scaled-down reproductions that alter each time they are repeated not only in scale, but in color. Each rectangle's color interacts with its neighbors to set up a vibrating spatial play among the multiple images. Hals, Vermeer, Ingres, Stuart, Romney, Raeburn, and Holbein confront each other, and themselves, in a representation of diverse individual styles from four centuries of European painting. That list forms the context of a further confrontation -- one with George Deem and 20th-century American painting. Such confrontations and juxtapositions are central to his work. These painting-lists articulate a visual maxim: that any two or more things placed side by side add up to more than the sum of their parts. Simple juxtaposition creates a third thing -- a new entity -- which changes the character of the constituent parts by changing our vision of them.
(Ronald Vance, "Painting Lists,"Art and Artists, London, February 1968)

George Deem paints from ... inadequate reproductions of paintings, so that his work, in oil on canvas, bears a double relation to art of the museums. Working from reproductions and copying other paintings are both acts which are marginal to the tradition of figurative painting, so that it is ironic and anti-idealistic to elevate paintings of reproductions of paintings to the level of fine art. ... In a painting like Eight Women he repeats images, adds image to image, separates colors, amplifies details, and reduces scale. The paintings suggest a tolerance, the possibility of adjusting visions which are inconsistent with each other into some consistency, and the possibility of increasing the number of possible combinations of things, rather than finding an exclusive and inevitable conclusion. The over-all distribution of attention cancels hierarchy, and images from more hierarchical ages are leveled into a democracy of images, with no inherent dimensions, and each with an inherent, but not absolute, space. ... The space in each quoted picture becomes a personal geometry, fitted with awkward courtesy into a family of correlatives. The inclusive space of the whole painting is like a private map of art, created by the personal but principled and "timeless" acts of reducing, enlarging, repeating, adding, and inverting.
(William S. Wilson, "Operational Images," Critical essay for catalogue of exhibition Aspects of a New Realism, Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 21 - August 10, 1969; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas, September 17 - October 19, 1969; Akron Art Institute, Akron, Ohio, November 9 - December 14, 1969)

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