This publication appeared in conjunction with the exhibition Huttenlocher, Lasker, Van Merendonk, that took place at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (6 February – 21 March 1993).

With the exhibition Huttenlocher, Lasker, Van Merendonk, Witte de With further explored the idea behind the exhibition and book Cézanne (Enquête). In that exhibition, with work by Rémy Zaugg, Daniel Walravens, and the filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet, ‘fine’ painting was considered in a critical light and its conventions and truisms were put on the line.

In her review of the exhibition Cézanne, tellingly entitled “Short Countdown Towards Rhetoric,” the Dutch critic Anna Tilroe had written, “With a minute-long image of a closed gate, the filmmakers let Cézanne conclude by saying, ‘C’est effrayant la vie.’ And that, while he had given painters at a loss for subject such spirited, and still powerful, advice as, ‘just paint your stovepipe’.”

Anna Tilroe’s question – and in a sense she had answered herself with her title – has been precisely the point of the exhibition and book Huttenlocher, Lasker, Van Merendonk, and should perhaps be understood as follows: Can we, as the American art historian T.J. Clark recently argued in a defense of abstract expressionism, reach a better description of the ‘ins and outs’ of painting if we consider it and present it as ‘vulgar’?

It is perhaps not by chance that the film Cézanne (1989), by the French filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet, ends with the arrested image of the closed gate of the Villa des Beaux- Arts in Paris where Cézanne stayed and worked. Assuming that the varied manifestations of the grid in the work of Britta Huttenlocher, Jonathan Lasker and Jos van Merendonk have been normal and vulgar as well, when referring to the paintings, the grids, by Huttenlocher, Lasker and Van Merendonk in all their variations, differences and repetitions as vulgar, what is meant exactly is, “The order of the diagram,” the legibility which completes visibility and sometimes even changes it. The images of painting today, on the edge, but not at the limit, of abstraction and figuration, exist thanks to the fact that we must learn to accept that, “To perceive is to subtract from the image what doesn’t interest us; there is always less in our perception.” Thus, the ‘reader’ of this publication is invited to ‘read’ the images reproduced in this book in a like manner.