Artists: Nancy Chunn, Lydia Dona, Susanne Doremus, Mary Heilmann, Cheonae Kim, David Moreno, Thomas Nozkowski, Warren Rohrer, Kay Rosen, Elena Sisto, Evelyn Statsinger, and Kevin Wolff
On Condition: Between Abstraction and Representation, curated by Julia Fish, presents recent paintings by twelve contemporary artists whose works differ in appearance and intention. The artists included in this exhibition are Nancy Chunn, Lydia Dona, Susanne Doremus, Mary Heilmann, Cheonae Kim, David Moreno, Thomas Nozkowski, Warren Rohrer, Kay Rosen, Elena Sisto, Evelyn Statsinger, and Kevin Wolff. Working within painting’s material definition, that is, the application of paint to a flat, prepared surface, each artist takes a unique approach to painting’s history and to current critical issues, engaging the language(s) of abstraction along with the methods, systems, and/or conventions of representation. The character of that engagement is qualified by the references each artist introduces and negotiates and the forms of visual abstraction—color, shape and line—that are employed.
Considering these paintings individually, each may appear to operate entirely within the terms of representation or abstraction. Yet upon closer examination, one can sense that the works hold an uneasy allegiance to either position, and that the images in each painting continue to shift associations, offering, finally, a synthesis of meaning.
It is instructive to consider how meaning is joined and how synthesis is achieved. Rohrer, Sisto, Statsinger, and Wolff willingly embrace their references and the specific spatial illusion necessary to convince, but then set their images to work, challenging that very illusion through the deliberate editing of the imagery selected, or through reductive methods of painting.
Doremus, Kim, Rohrer, and Rosen investigate abstract systems of visual calligraphy, sign, or spoken language. These paintings allow the mind to read, to mouth their silent but insistent speech.
Chunn, Dona, Moreno, Sisto, and Statsinger employ various combinations of cultural, political, diagrammatic, or signifying methods of image-making toward deliberate ends. They further augment meaning by fragmenting those images, thus building their paintings through juxtaposition, substitution, or cancellation.
Heilmann and Nozkowski develop full and varied surfaces, both transparent and opaque, in which the procedure of form-making is a transference of subjective, physical experience. Their forms adhere to the canvas as forms themselves, the complete image neither larger nor smaller than itself: a representation of an abstraction.
Encountering these paintings, one surely recognizes a (self)conscious consideration of several art-historical precedents, including the subjective, disjunctive revelations of Surrealism; the scale, authority, and painterly gestures of abstract expressionism; and the unabashed transfer and elevation of cultural iconography found in Pop and recent appropriation art. While these historical factors have provided some of the intellectual foundation from which the artists work, the paintings presented in this exhibition were also constructed with an awareness of the critical and theoretical reassessment of those very precedents within our current (and continuously redefined) cultural context. Assembled, these images offered evidence of an enriched position for painting, one gained through weighing the requirements of both abstraction and representation, and calibrating their relative and mutual influences.