Matthew Higgs rounds-up the everyday in non-representational art

Four years ago White Columns director Matthew Higgs’s proposal for the 6th Berlin Biennale considered the relationship between non-representational art and everyday life, but his submission was rejected in favor of Kathrin Rhomberg’s “what is waiting out there.”  Higgs has finally dusted off the original proposal and used it as the basis for “Everyday Abstract–Abstract Everyday” an eclectic and amusing exhibition at James Cohen Gallery through July 27. Higgs writes in his statement that

This exhibition seeks to develop these earlier ideas around what I termed �vernacular� or �everyday� abstraction: that is artistic practices that actively privilege and operate in the grey area between an essentially non-representational image/object and the use of quotidian materials and processes.

Collectively the works in “Everyday Abstract � Abstract Everyday” seem most interested in the point at which the self-contained rationality of earlier modernist abstraction is ruptured. This sense of �rupture� � both physically and psychologically – is perhaps the prevailing aesthetic attitude that unites the otherwise highly idiosyncratic artists � and art works � brought together in “Everyday Abstract � Abstract Everyday.” In the work of all these artists traces of our material culture are transformed, or perhaps more accurately, re-purposed into something that is simultaneously familiar and strange.

Higgs has selected a wide range of engaging work, but the concept for the show is so obvious, it saps the best work of the strange, leaving primarily the familiar.

  JOE FYFE, Comme le pays, 2012, found vinyl objects and canvas, gauze, and cord, 67 x 26 x 10 inches.
 TONY FEHER, Painting, 2007, oil stain on plywood, 17 3/8 X 11 5/8 inches.
 MICHEL FRAN�OIS, Untitled, 2012, paper, approx. 8 x 12 feet.From afar, doesn’t this piece look like a big Tauba Auerbach painting?
 DAVID HAMMONS, KOOLAID DRAWING, 2004, Koolaid and pencil on paper, 43 29 inches.
 ANN CATHRIN NOVEMBER H�IBO, Untitled #06, 2012, bronze cast of instant noodles, 4 x 3 � x 1 � inches. LOL, right?

 JOSH SMITH, Untitled, 2009, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. Why is this painting included? Is it because Smith paints everyday?
 AGNES LUX, #91-L, 2012, graphite on postcards, 82 5/8 X 52 1/2 inches.
JUDITH SCOTT, Untitled, 2004, mixed media, 23 x 19 x 16 inches. Does this ball of mixed media include any rubber bands?

 NANCY SHAVER, Fanny, 2011, Scrap metal, found upholstery board, upholstery fabric, canvas, glue, paper, house paint, acrylic paint, 66 x 27 x 20 inches. LOVE this.
 GEDI SIBONY, The Two Simple Green Threes, 2012, dropcloth, 137 X 95 inches. This was one of my favorite pieces in the show.

 ANDY WARHOL, Oxidation Painting, 1978, copper metallic pigment mixed with mixed media on canvas – twelve panels, 48 X 49 1/2 inches. Or, you know, piss.

  B. WURTZ, Untitled, 2010, collage and acrylic on paper, thread, string, plastic lid, 48 x 30 � inches.

 “Everyday Abstract–Abstract Everyday,” installation view. All images courtesy James Cohen Gallery.
Everyday Absract–Abstract Everyday,” curated by Matthew Higgs. James Cohen Gallery, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through July 27, 2012. Artists include Walead Beshty, Alexandra Bircken, Sarah Braman, Wolfgang Breuer, Tom Burr, Ernst Caramelle, Andy Coolquitt, Paul Cowan, N. Dash, Tony Feher, Michel Fran�ois, Joe Fyfe, Kim Gordon, David Hammons, Richard Hawkins, Ann Cathrin November H�ibo, Bill Jenkins, Sergej Jensen, Udomsak Krisanamis, Jason Loebs, Agnes Lux, David Moreno, Virginia Overton, Manfred Pernice, Judith Scott, Nancy Shaver, Gedi Sibony, Michael E. Smith, Josh Smith, Shinique Smith, Al Taylor, Bill Walton, Andy Warhol, Hannah Wilke, Philadelphia Wireman, B. Wurtz, Amy Yao


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  1. Is it me or has contemporary painting painted itself into a corner..?

  2. @Sharon–I think Michel Francois was going more for a grayscale-Kenneth Showell

  3. To add to my smart-ass comment above, it feels like we've reached the contemporary point in art akin to Romanticism in the 1800s. The safe style. The � we've seen this stuff before and it deals with the educated questions to ask so it's accepted. It could seem that we're headed down a path of innovation but what is mostly witnessed is roadblocks to side routes that no one dares to take. So much of it is similar. I call it Lipster Academic and if no one has used it before I'll take credit for the term. Lip being pretentious word of mouth, ie: he said, she said and so I say a similar thing so I don't sound out of tune. I mean god forbid I ask a stupid question and sound like a child. But here's the catch… sometimes a stupid question is the question no one dares to ask. And it's the questions, not the answers, that moves us forward.

  4. My messy apartment is way more interesting than this horrible show. Too bad it was rejected only once.

  5. To Emora comment: your comment wasn't smart ass at all. I wrote about Amy Feldman as a mash up of old school MALE color field painting. Like altmusic today, so much is taken from the Beatles that an overall generic-ness has set in. Ultimately, the problem lies in university education; we've exhausted formal concerns; maybe outsider content driven material could work. Cheer leaders like Saltz would disagree, but the NYC tradition expired.

  6. OH good christ!!!!! stupid questions? blaming universities? altmusic? "Lipster Academic? What are you talking about??????????

    the criticism you blog-commenting trollers have of art and its contemporary discipline is soooooo expected! it is laughable. grow up, understand that art is a business, not for the worse! outsiders and the uneducated have their place (where it has gotten them, who knows), but so do those who have learned from the past, understand the present, and look towards the future. they are the ones who keep this all going, as are critics like saltz who understand this. NOT whiny commentors on blogs, it is not 1960 anymore. You are worse than any of your complaints of "traditions expired" or "stupid questions", especially of "university education" because god knows how terribly that has treated society.

    IT IS 2012!

  7. 2012?… what the…Oh my god! Mid 2012 in fact so where have I been? Thanks for clarifying. Ok so I could easily be accused of trolling but let's talk about that later. And yeah Lipster was dumb. Made me cringe when I read it the next morning and in fact it already exists on Urban Dictionary. It means lesbian hipster, haha. Anyway I have a question based on what you wrote. You said the people who have learned from the past, understand the present, and look towards the future are keeping this all going. So where is this all going? Maybe that's a stupid question but I'm asking anyway because I'm curious. It's going to go to…? You tell me. It's not a trick question. You could say it doesn't have to go anywhere just as long as it keeps going into the future (which is one of the few things in life which is 100% guaranteed). Yes I get that it's a business and trust me I don't ignore that. But if that's the case I want to see the bullshit separated from what it truly is. It's a high-stakes money game right? Cmon red! I actually think Adam Lindemann is the most honest one out there because his blog is all about money. So let's all start talking about it like it's wall st. gambling that doesn't have to take us anywhere as long as it keeps going. Then you won't find me ranting. So I'm with you! Let's go whole hog baby! Hirst pork bellies are hot right now and I'm a betting man (oh… there might be an idea there). It's all about money and brands now right? Definitely not about art aiming to uplift and help clarify who we are because that is such sentimental drivel. Those outsiders who whine for more out of art are annoying, kitschy (the bad kind of kitsch), country bumpkins who can't see clearly�like that naive, cliche-ridden nut Van Gogh.

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