Contributed by Adam Simon / In a November 2022 article titled “Between Abstraction and Representation” in the New York Review of Books, Jed Perl lamented the equivocating position that many contemporary painters take in relation to abstraction and figuration. In his view, what was once a philosophical battleground, with two strongly held opposing positions, was now seen as merely a choice of equally viable means. His article focused on two artists, Julie Mehretu and Gerhardt Richter – Mehretu for inserting representational imagery in what appear as abstract paintings and Richter for ping-ponging between figuration and abstraction. What Perl doesn’t mention is the rich terrain of indeterminacy that results when artwork hovers between abstraction and figuration. Marcy Rosenblat’s solo show “Undercover,” now up at 490 Atlantic Gallery in Brooklyn, is a particularly successful example.
Tag: Adam Simon
Contributed by Adam Simon / At first glance, Tom McGlynn’s paintings, on display at his solo show “What Gives” at Rick Wester Fine Art, seem to be examples of minimalist abstraction, free of narrative, subject, or anything associative. His arrangements of rectangles of solid color on a monochromatic field evoke modernism’s utopian origins: Mondrian, Van Doesburg, De Stijl, Neo-plasticism, painting purged of anything that could be thought extraneous. For contemporary abstract painters, however, these basic shapes are historically weighted signifiers, no longer free of association. One cannot now make a geometric abstract painting without it also being a depiction of a geometric abstract painting. McGlynn is fully aware of this doubling. For him, it isn’t a quandary as much as a defining characteristic of his work. What is remarkable is that, out of such seemingly depleted soil, he can conjure such visual richness.
Contributed by Adam Simon / I only watched parts of The Exhibit: Finding the Next Great Artist – the six-episode MTV/Smithsonian Channel reality show in which seven artists compete for an exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and $100k in prize money. Not having an MTV account, my viewing was repeatedly interrupted by ads, and I bailed after watching a few episodes. I was sorry to bail in a way because there were things I liked about The Exhibit. The artists were impressive as thinking, creative individuals and I was taken with how supportive they appeared of each other, remarkable given the stakes. If there were times of cutthroat competition, they were carefully edited out, happened off camera, or just weren’t in the bits that I saw. I’m guessing the comradery I witnessed was genuine. That said, there is a striking degree to which The Exhibit, as a reality TV show, resembles any other reality TV show, whether it’s American Idol, The Apprentice, or Top Chef. A quick scan shows over 400 reality TV shows listed on Wikipedia, dating back to my favorite, the British Up series in 1964.]
Contributed by Adam Simon / I almost decided not to write about Paul Pagk’s first solo exhibition at Miguel Abreu on the Lower East Side after reading Raphael Rubinstein’s eloquent press statement. Rubinstein articulated so much of what struck me about the exhibition that I wondered what I could add. One thing Rubinstein alludes to but doesn’t explore in depth is the chasm that separates an initial glance at a Pagk painting from longer consideration of his work in person. For viewers not attuned to the ways painters glean meaning from forms and materials, these paintings might appear overly reductive, mere diagrams on fields of monochrome. You tend to take in a Pagk canvas quickly, as a one-to-one relationship of image to ground without a lot of interacting parts. It’s easy to miss the many ways in which his false starts, reiterations, miscues, and reworkings belie his apparent minimalism and austerity.
Contributed by Adam Simon / Don Dudley’s minimalism has always had a West Coast flavor, more concerned with perception than objecthood. Like many artists of his generation, he has steered clear of expressionism, or anything that shifted attention from the object to the artist. His focus has been on the purely visual.
Contributed by Adam Simon / Lately I find myself wondering what impact the ubiquity of cellphone cameras is having on the practice of fine-art photography. As frustrating as it might be for the serious photographer to see everyone and their cousin constantly taking and posting pictures, one salient effect could be a rising inclination to explore the limits of what defines a photograph. There has been a resurgence of interest in photograms and camera obscura for some time now, and Joy Episalla’s current show of works labelled ‘foldtograms’ on view at Tibor de Nagy are even further removed from the idea of capturing an image.
Contributed by Adam Simon / In the neighborhood of abstract painting, Maureen McQuillan’s backyard – reflected by works on view at McKenzie Fine Art until May 15 – features process-based or system-based painting. Loosely defined, this is painting for which the process of its making is its primary subject and the finished painting is understood as evidence of that process.
“Mind the Gaps” at the Osmos space on East 1st Street takes as its curatorial premise that it has no consistent curatorial premise and so offers a welcome respite to the incessant connecting of dots of contemporary life. The curatorial statement of non-intent leaves viewers to “puzzle out their own version of coherence.”
Contributed by Adam Simon / One of Russell Maltz’s singular achievements is to demonstrate how easily utilitarian objects and materials can be transported, Cinderella-like, into the alchemical realm of fine art. This is partly a property of the materials themselves: the symmetry, weightiness, and economy of products meant for construction. “Russell Maltz: Painted/Stacked/Site” on view at Minus Space in Dumbo, through July 30, with an additional nearby storefront installation and a slide show depicting found sites of construction material.
“AS/AS: Anton Stankowski / Adam Simon” at Osmos Address explores the convergent interests of two artists, separated by 50 years, coming from two different fields, who had never met and whose work was unbeknownst to one another,.