Mark Tansey’s painting “Derrida Queries de Man” (1990) showcases a scene of “ambiguous dance-struggle” taking place between Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man atop a pile of texts. This artwork is considered as part of Tansey’s “theory paintings,” which incorporate references to philosophy and literary theory. The viewer is unable to see the peak of the mountain, resulting in a lack of perspective on the entire mountain.
From a formalist standpoint, the painting has been analyzed based on its design principles and color attributes. Tansey’s painting not only plays with but also references assorted schools of thought and intellectual pedigrees, positioning it as a postmodern composition.
As underlined in the painting, the contrast of the bumbling figures and the pile of publications they stand on draws parallels to the concept of uncertainty and instability as denoted by postmodernism. Nonetheless, Tansey’s choice of color manages to bring the painting to life, presenting a vibrant, thought-provoking composition that stands to remain timeless.