"Is it your position that we should dematerialize the images and approach the piece as a total abstraction?"
Yes, I think that is what I am saying. Perhaps the word would be to desubjectize the images whether the writing/print, a couple on a bed or a flower, and ask does it (the shape, mark, color, etc. ) work in the scheme of the whole. It's too easy to get fixed on a subject. Of course, figuration is a way to invite the viewer into the painting and has an important place. I have absolutely no problem with using real objects and subjects in an artwork if they are integrated, in harmony and add to the piece as a whole.
I know it is not the way many artists/viewers would think nowadays. So much art today is about the meaning of the writing, the importance of the couple on the bed, the hanging on to this or that.
I am more interested in what a painting does to me as a sonata or poem does to us. This is not to say I am not for understanding how this is accomplished. Much like the AB EX painter, I am interested in how the painting is built. Focusing too much on subject can get in my way. If the subject is integrated into the whole, I'm happy. I see no need to stop and interpret the writing because the interpretation might stop me and I will get locked into story. I am interested in a different kind of story. The story of the making of the artwork. The story of my feelings, deep vibrations, connections, relationships, opposites in conversation....
Poetry seems more like what I mean. You read a poem. You feel something powerful in the surprising juxtapositions and associations. You are moved, and not sure why. Then comes English class and dissection of the poem. Your analysis makes you feel powerful and important, but the poem has lost its first spirit, its mystery, its energy. I'm for interpretation but a larger kind of interpretation. One that helps us understand our soul in relation to "other". Most interpretation is made to massage our private ego mind.
I think many people in the art elite would say I am old fashioned and stuck in the past. So be it.
Of course when you approach a painting like Sean Scully's rectangles, there aren't exactly the same kinds of things happening as in a Hartigan, but there is still the paint handling, the color choices, a similar art spirit and mystery that embodies his work. He is a painter's painter like Hartigan.
I guess I am for turning off the mind in whatever way I can. I know my mind is linked to my ego and my ego must not get in the way of my creating art or loving art. Or, if not turning off the mind, making it subservient to feeling. I was just reading last night in Seven Life Lessons of Chaos: Spiritual Wisdom from the Science of Change by John Briggs how Apollo is the God of art and reason. I think there is something to the fact that art/aesthetics is full of reason and order. Most people think that because art tends toward feeling and creativity that it is not rigorous. However, art seems most rigorous in the areas of reason, order, right thinking, exactness, clarity. Creativity flourishes when deep feeling and deep thinking combine. So when I talk about turning off the mind, I mean the "academic" mind. Alice Miller had it right when she called it "poisonous pedagogy".
Actually mind and heart and spirit are so closely aligned in great art, poetry, prose, etc, that ...... one's breath is taken away!