Is Abstract Art Experiencing a Renaissance?

Modern figurative portray has commanded a lot essential consideration in recent times, however a spate of summary exhibits sign a return to non-objectivity.

Ragen Moss, Senior Lender (with Mezzanine Lender, with Coronary heart), 2019, acrylic, polyethylene, aluminum and metal , 53x30x22 inches (courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue)

The time period abstraction is nebulous and shifting; its that means can differ in response to context, expertise and time. It may be problematic, too, as labelling a piece as summary instantly pits it in opposition to that which is representational. Some may argue that each one artwork is summary since no matter its topic, the work is all the time at a take away from the “actual world,” therefore, an abstraction of actuality. For the sake of this text, the time period “abstraction” is supposed to explain a kind of artwork whose central goal is to not re-present some side of the tangible world in pictorial phrases. Whereas the artists mentioned right here could certainly reference perceived phenomena, the individuals, locations and/or issues that they reference are altered/synthesized/diminished—abstracted—to the purpose the place the what turns into secondary to the works’ total formal qualities like coloration, line, form, texture, and so forth. 

In recent times, there was large upswell of essential and market consideration centered on up to date figurative portray. This work makes use of the human type in a direct manner, by depicting representations of individuals starting from the hyperrealistic to the closely stylized. The flip to figuration got here on the heels of a decade of abstraction that culminated in what some have deemed “zombie formalism:” a mode of abstraction that seems nearly mechanical in its systematic or serial strategy. However the kind of abstraction mentioned right here is of one other type. Any such abstraction emphasizes the human hand and bears all of the indicators of the artists’ engagement with their supplies. In some methods, any such summary portray has its foundations in mid-century abstraction, and the artists mentioned right here every have interaction with the historical past of abstraction immediately, if in various levels. 

Chris Martin, Sphinx, oil on canvas, 16 x 14 ¼ inches (courtesy the artist and Anton Kern Gallery)

An exemplar of this sort of hard-won, resolutely individualistic abstraction is Chris Martin. For many years, Martin has been a sort of indie hero for painters. His omnivorous model of creative abstraction, his intense surfaces and the visionary high quality of his work have made him a ubiquitous staple within the New York artwork world for the reason that early 1980s. When Martin joined the secure of artists at Anton Kern, it signaled his ascent from underground portray hero to a longtime artist. The latest exhibition of Martin’s work at Kern highlights small-scale work from 1979-94: a formative interval for the artist throughout which he developed his personal private lexicon of varieties and his intensely labored but recent, refined surfaces. Take Sphinx (1986), for instance, which suggests a four-legged type evocative of the titular creature. As in a lot of Martin’s work, the ultimate picture has a high quality of inevitability and is diminished to its essence.

Ragen Moss: eight Animals at Bridget Donahue, set up view (courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue) 

The time period “eccentric abstraction” was coined by artwork historian and critic Lucy Lippard in 1966 to explain work that “evokes the gendered physique via an emphasis on course of and supplies.”  With their breast-like protrusions and cocoon shapes, the clear, sculptural works of Ragen Moss on view at Bridget Donahue resonate with Lippard’s time period, although they complicate what a “gendered physique” may imply. Upon coming into the gallery’s second flooring Bowery house, one is confronted by Moss’ bulbous balloon-like works suspended from the ceiling. These objects, whereas showing light-weight, command a way of gravitas within the room. In some cases, textual content seems on the surfaces of the objects. In others, flat areas of coloration are printed on the latex surfaces as in Senior Lender (with Mezzanine Lender, with Coronary heart) (2019). Moss’ sculptures straddle the natural and the manufactured because the printed latex recollects commercially printed items and the heart-shaped varieties seen throughout the construction allude to a human chest cavity. Moss makes use of essentially the most elemental options of sculpture: house, mild, the physique, and has reconfigured these components in work that’s recent and new whereas harkening again to historical past. 

Joanne Greenbaum: I’m Doing My Face in Magic Marker at Rachel Uffner, set up view, 2019 (courtesy the artist and Rachel Uffner) 

Simply as Moss’ works take an unconventional type, Joanne Greenbaum makes her foray into utilizing glass as a medium in her latest solo at Rachel Uffner to develop the parameters of portray. Within the first room of the gallery, a choice of kiln-formed glass work are displayed on slender ledges lining the gallery partitions. These slick, glittering tablet-like works are paired with a choice of Greenbaum’s massive, ebullient summary work wherein shiny swathes of swiftly utilized paint meet child-like scribbles of crimson and pink. The exhibition’s title, “I’m Doing My Face in Magic Marker,” alludes to a way of play and mischief that are evident within the freewheeling mark making and joyous coloration combos that animate Greenbaum’s work. Like Martin, a way of levity and experimentation pervades Greenbaum’s follow. Maybe it’s this sense of freedom that may make abstraction so seductive. The place figuration has the potential to convey direct social, biographical and political commentary, summary artwork tends to be extra associative in nature. In different phrases, the works right here open up a broad area of risk for interpretation and provides the viewer company to attract parallels between the work and the world in response to their very own expertise and cultural references. Likewise, summary portray and sculpture inhabit the world another way. With their formal components taking heart stage (in comparison with say, narrative or the likeness of a determine) abstraction calls consideration to itself as an impartial factor relatively than an outline, which alters the methods wherein one interacts and receives the work.

Erika Ranee, Mothership, 2019, acrylic, shellac, spray paint and paper collage on canvas, 30h x 40w in. (courtesy the artist and Freight+Quantity)

At Freight + Quantity, painter Erika Ranee presents a brand new physique of gestural abstractions wherein a cacophony of painterly strategies collide into brilliantly energetic work. Central to Ranee’s course of is the deployment of drips, stains and dense layers of pigment that are incessantly mixed with collage and extra detailed passages. Regardless of the myriad colours and textures in Ranee’s work, she manages to deftly prepare and choreograph her mark making to create a way of concord. Just like the aforementioned artists, Ranee’s work command one’s consideration primarily via the sensation of power that appears to radiate forth from the floor. Whereas power might sound an elusive metric for discussing artwork, it has one thing to do with the artists’ bodily engagement with their supplies and the methods wherein that relationship is transmitted again to the viewer. As a result of recognizable pictures are roughly faraway from the equation, the human physique is implied via the steps and procedures made manifest within the work itself. On this manner, abstraction can lay naked primal facets of the artist’s temperament and expertise in methods not usually afforded the figurative artist who must cope with the precise wants inherent to illustration. 

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