Forests have fallen to explain The Waste Land. And yet, many readers express frustration, which never fully goes away, no matter how many papers and books they read. Once someone begins to read the poem, it is difficult to know where to stop: the preface, the note on the text, the poem itself, the author’s footnotes, the editor’s footnotes, the sources alluded to, the literary criticism, the guides, the biographies, the bibliographies, the early drafts? There is no back cover to this book. One could go on reading The Waste Land until the Holy Grail was found.
Abstract paintings are meta-paintings. A meta-painting is a painting about painting. A meta-painting may represent itself, the process of its creation, its materiality, the conventions of art, the gallery where it is hung, the artwork around it, and the place of art and artist in society. Diego Velasquez’s Las Meninas does all these things and more, but Velasquez’s painting is a meta-painting because of its subject matter, rather than its form or style. Most other paintings by Velasquez are not meta, but are naturalistic representations. Abstract paintings, in contrast, are inherently meta. (You can see Velasquez’s painting below.)
Abstract paintings are meta because they are about themselves. The titles of many abstract paintings show that they are their own subject matter, for example Constructivist Painting No. 8 by Joaquin Torres-Garcia from 1938. The metapainting also emphasizes the process of its creation, namely its construction in the word “Constructivist.” Similarly, Jackson Pollock’s Square Painting refers to paint being poured into a square (the process being what matters most for Pollock). All abstract paintings are meta-paintings.