Suzanne Hudson is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Southern California, where she teaches about modern and contemporary art. In this ambitious and wide-ranging work, she presents a robust and substantive survey of "the recursive and deeply generative contemporaneity of painting." With vitality and an eye for detail, she comments on the works of more than 200 artists from around the world whose creations are defining painting in the modern and post-modern periods.

Early on Hudson clarifies her decision to use the term artist rather than painter; artist takes within its embrace other kinds of art and media. When she uses the word "painting" she means "work that is done with the materials, styles, conventions, and histories of painting as the principle point of reference."

In order to organize the large numbers of creative works she covers here, Hudson has divide the book into six chapters:

  • Appropriation: "An artist using an existing element — most commonly, a commercial image, piece of art, or some detail of these — to make a new work"
  • Attitude: "Various strategies of self-presentation that artists use to frame themselves and their work"
  • Production and Distribution: "The changing nature of how art is produced, exhibited, and sold"
  • The Body: "The body as the site where the iconic, the personal, the political, the private, the state and its economics, register most acutely"
  • Beyond Painting: "The questioning of painting's fundaments — its material history and conventions . . . what painting might be without losing sight of what it once was."
  • About Painting: "Works that move painting further from (its) function as images, and towards objects that act in space, intervene in sites, or mutate through performance."

With these thematic binoculars, Hudson enables us to survey the art world today and anticipate what's coming. Throughout the book, which contains 230 illustrations, Hudson includes comments from well-known and the emerging artists. Here is a sampling of what she writes about:

  • Makiko Kudo's painting of a young girl looking for something in a springtime setting that brings to mind the landscapes of Henri Rousseau
  • R. H. Quaytman's "A Woman in the Sun," based on Edward Hopper's painting, showing a nude figure in a shaft of light
  • Jim Shaw's gathering of paintings and found-objects that demonstrate all the kitsch surrounding us
  • The famous artist David Hockney paintings created by using brush strokes on his iPhone
  • El Arakawa's "I am an employee of UNITED. Vol 2," a performance piece designed to mimic the contemplation of a wall painting
  • Ida Ekblad's pieces welded from materials found on the streets or in scrap yards which reveal her affinity for gates
  • Peter Dreher's series of 5,000 paintings of an empty glass which reveal subtle changes

With her openness and love of variety, Suzanne Hudson introduces us to the artists and styles bound to fascinate us well into the future. She is a fine scout to people and places previously unknown to us. With Painting Now, she makes pioneers of us all!