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Notes on abstraction

In preparation for the upcoming summer studio visits, please spend some time with a few notes on abstraction by New York Magazine writer, Jerry Saltz. When asked the question, is abstract art for real?, Saltz emphatically responded with The Jerry Saltz Abstract Manifesto, posted below. Enjoy.

Dear ______,

You are not alone. I too have heretical thoughts like yours. It can also take 30 years to understand why an all-white painting by Robert Ryman or a pencil grid on canvas by Agnes Martin is art.

I can’t tell you what abstraction is, but I can tell you a number of things that I think that it allows artists to do. What I say about abstract art could also be applied to representational art. With that in mind here’s “The Jerry Saltz Abstract Manifesto, in Twenty Parts.”

1. Abstraction is one of the greatest visionary tools ever invented by human beings to imagine, decipher, and depict the world.

2. Abstraction is staggeringly radical, circumvents language, and sidesteps naming or mere description. It disenchants, re-enchants, detoxifies, destabilizes, resists closure, slows perception, and increases our grasp of the world.

3. Abstraction not only explores consciousness — it changes it.

4. All art is abstract. A painting of a person or a still-life is a two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional reality and therefore infinitely abstract. Whenever an artist sets out to make something it turns into something else that he or she could never have imagined or predicted.

5. Think of an abstract painting as very, very low relief — a thing, not a picture.

6. Abstraction exists in the interstices between the ideal and the real, symbol and substance, the optic and the haptic, imagination and observation.

7. Abstraction brings the world into more complex, variable relations; it can extract beauty, alternative topographies, ugliness, and intense actualities from seeming nothingness.

8. Abstraction, like ideas, intuitions, feelings, and life, is not mimetic.

9. Abstraction is as old as we are. It has existed for millennia outside the West. It is present on cave walls, in Egyptian and Cypriot Greek art, Chinese scholar rocks, all Islamic and Jewish art — both of which forbid representation. Abstraction is only new in the West.

10. Abstraction gained ground in Western art after centuries of more perfected systems of representation. By the mid-nineteenth century, representation felt like a trap, and seemed empty, false, or limiting. A similar situation existed in the early aughts, after artists of the nineties re-deployed realisms in numerous ways. The field appeared closed off for younger artists. That’s why contemporary artists have not only begun to reexplore the possibilities of abstraction, they’re shedding much of the Greenbergian cant and academic-formalist dogma that attached themselves to it over the last 50 years. Abstraction is breaking free again.

11. Abstraction offers ways around what Beckett called “the neatness of identification.”

12. Rothko’s glowing floating rectangles of color are more than abstract patterns. They are Buddhist TVs or what Keats called “good oblivion. One sees what nothing looks like in them. They make you ask, “What light through yonder painting breaks?” (Now do you see how full emptiness and abstraction can be?)

13. Abstraction is just a tool. It is no less “real” than philosophy or music.

14. Abstraction is something outside of life that allows us to be present at our own absence or alternatively absent in our own presence.

15. Abstraction creates patterns of meaning and its own extremely flexible intricate syntax. It is astral synthesis.

16. Abstraction teeters on making empty gestures while also making deep statements.

17. The camera was supposed to supplant painting but didn’t. Instead, painting — ever the sponge, always elastic — absorbed it and discovered new realms.

18. Abstraction may speak in a sort of intra-species visual-electronic-chemical-pheromonal code, creating optical-cerebral networks and wormholes, organic maps of unknown yet familiar territories, may have a kind of plant intelligence that allows it to grow, proliferate, flower, change directions, and survive relentless aesthetic predation from a lay public.

19. Abstraction contains multitudes.

20. I’ve left out No. 20, because I want to hear your opinion: What else does abstraction do that’s special? Comments are open below…

To follow the original article, click HERE

-Audra Wolowiec

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The Conditional Mosque – Gallery Visit

The Conditional Mosque
Janus Project
6023 9th Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11220
January 2 – 29, 2011
Closing Reception: Friday, January 28th from 7 – 11pm

The Conditional Mosque is the third exhibition at Janus Project, a new experimental project space in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Featuring a range of work by emerging artists Haseeb Ahmed, Azra Akasimja, Azin Feizabadi and Em Meine, the show initiates a discussion about the mosque as a cultural and symbolic icon: By bracketing out all but form, a religious object is no longer strictly religious as such. The aestheticization of religious form has the ability to liquidate it entirely, but also open it up to a multitude of new interpretations.

Detail of painting by Em Meine

Installation by Haseeb Ahmed

Detail of installation by Haseeb Ahmed

 

The exhibition space, previously inhabited as a family dwelling, occupies two floors of a large house with converted living spaces above. The hybrid architectural styles and domestic setting lend layered readings of the work that temporarily coexists within its walls. Founder and curator Chris Mansour (also a contributor at Platypus and 491) talks about the space in an excerpt from the website:

This place has existed before, but it has not always, nor will it. Through the depths of the earth beneath this space’s foundation all the way up to the limits of the sky above its roof, resides the residue of what once was—what was once lived, thought, and experienced, stretching back till time immemorial. This very moment yields the potential of experiencing the perspective of Janus, reinventing both the past once lived, and the future to come.

The exhibition is open by appointment through the end of January and a closing reception will be held Friday, January 28th from 7 – 11pm.

-Audra Wolowiec

Satellite Studio Fuse – Rachel Frank at Women’s Studio Workshop

Rachel Frank is in residency at Woman’s Studio Workshop focussing on a book endeavor that thematically ties in to her recent performance project.

Note from Rachel:

“So far the Women’s Studio Workshop bookmaking residency has been amazingly productive and I have learned a tremendous amount in the short time I’ve been here so far. I just finished my silkscreen printing and collating of my printed pages for the 57+ edition of books. For the final three weeks I will be hand stitch and tape binding the book signatures and making book cloth covered hardcovers that will each be embossed using the letterpress.

(Pictures include my wonderful studio intern helping me fold each of the signatures before collating, a picture of one of my stitched spines drying in the press, layers of the edition printing, and some images of the silkscreen studio)”


Grants & Fellowships Calendar

The calendar is undergoing maintenance and will return shortly.

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