Agathe Snow, Five (Cross On The Left With Spider Web), 2007, Mixed-media sculpture

Emerging Artist Survey Offers Nod
to Twentieth Century Modern

Abstract America: New Painting and Sculpture, presents a survey of emerging art from the USA. Thirty-two artists will be in the exhibition, representing an exciting new generation of painters and sculptors. With a historical nod to their Abstract Expressionist predecessors of the mid-20th century, these artists are heavily influenced by the new digital age. Old master palettes, Manga purple and bubble gum pinks come together in work that embraces Photoshop, TV, the internet and many other contemporary influences.

Abstract America is set to shape our understanding of the work of this vital group of artists, who have absorbed these many aspects of contemporary life and chosen very individual ways to communicate.

Abstract America includes works by Kristin Baker, John Bauer, Mark Bradford, Tom Burr, Joe Bradley, Jedediah Caesar, Carter, Eric and Heather ChanSchatz, Peter Coffin, Guerra de la Paz, Francesca DiMattio, Bart Exposito, Mark Grotjahn, Jacob Hashimoto, Rachel Harrison, Patrick Hill, Ryan Johnson, Matt Johnson, Paul Lee, Chris Martin, Elizabeth Neel, Baker Overstreet, Stephen G. Rhodes, Amanda Ross-Ho, Sterling Ruby, Gedi Sibony, Amy Sillman, Agathe Snow, Kirsten Stoltmann, Dan Walsh, Jonas Wood and Aaron Young.

The New Atlantis:
Abstract America
The new American century circa 2008 is a time of great change and contradiction as new systems are put into place. Our analog twentieth century has given way
to the virtual twenty-first, a period when the implications of Walter Benjamin’s Age of Mechanical Reproduction have multiplied a trillion-fold. In response contemporary art has found new ways to counter the changing technological and geopolitical forces.

Truth and reality are malleable. In every era revolutions are planned and history is shaped. Artists are the God-like creatures steering to the future, altering the culture for a generation. They are the shepherds. Their labours create the consciousness of the times. Conventional order is in fact usurped by art under the camouflage of "form." Abstract art has always run up against the prevailing grain of the time. Radical leftwing art of the 1940’s emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War and the machinations of the Cold War in a response to the failed utopias of Modernism and Communism. Joseph Albers then introduced Bauhaus thinking to a generation of young American artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg at Black Mountain College. The aesthetic values of the European avant-garde were imported to America from artists in flight from Europe.

Cut to now — the mid-20th century malaise and rebellion could be echoed in the present. Global treaties are signed year after year but things get worse and worse. Life is increasingly bizarre. Dysfunction has almost become a virtue. Most people do not think deeply or contemplate events beyond their own time, but artists remember the past. While superficiality may prevail, the production of contemporary art still requires an enlightened viewpoint.

Abstract America reveals many of the complexities faced by that morphing breed, the abstract painters. One social crisis and its artistic consequence have followed another. The Minimalist artists of Vietnam era America dismantled the fading hegemony of Abstract Expressionism and Pop. On the heels of the stock market crash in 1987 identity politics and appropriation fuelled comment on post-Reagan American through the new media of photo and video installations. Today the abstract has a ‘virtual’ ramification. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology and the "gap between life and art" exploited by Robert Rauschenberg have gone digital. The early 21st century painter has hijacked the new technology and its constantly updated gadgets. A revolving door of references from both the real and the virtual have led to the emergence of the Painter of Modern Paradoxes, to paraphrase Charles Baudelaire. The "contemporary" now seems to alternate between Modernist change and Postmodernist remix. An "alter-modernity," a phrase coined by Nicolas Bourriaud in his forthcoming book is happening.

Abstract America >


Eric Gill, A Roland for an Oliver / Joie de Vivre, 1910, Hoptonwood stone bas relief, detail.

Sculpture Becoming Modern in the 20th Century
Royal Academy of Arts shows works celebrating a radical change that transformed British sculpture at the beginning of the 20th century. From 1905-1915 three outstanding young sculptors emerged; Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Eric Gill. The three artists are shown together in this context for the first time.

Wild Thing >>

Jan Wellens de Cock, Landschaft mit der Versuchung des hl. Antonius, 1522, Holzschnitt. detail.

Francesco Vezzoli, the Art of Rolling like Salvador Dali
Salvador Dalí was a forerunner for today’s close connection between artists and the media industry; a prototype for the celebrity artist. In Francesco Vezzoli’s work — a blend of hype and melancholy, queer culture and politics, glamour and tears — the presence of dalinian influences is a matter of course:.

Francesco Vezzoli >>

Mickalene Thomas (American, b.1971), Origin of the Universe I, 2012, detail.

Mickalene Thomas, Art Historical Figuration & Interiors
Brooklyn-based multimedia artist Mickalene Thomas, best known for her vibrant paintings of African American women against backdrops of decor recalled from her childhood. Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe, highlights the artist’s work from the past two years and includes some 93 pieces,

Mickelene Thomas >>

Edward Burtynsky, Super Pit #4, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 2007, detail.

Documents of Our Rapidly Changing Planet
Recent debates have centred less on the possibility and more on the certainty and speed with which climate change is taking place. As the debate has developed, so too has our approach to the future, Tthis exhibition reflects the impact of the climate change debate on the practice of a broad range of contemporary artists.

Changeing World >>

Tropicalia, a
Cannibalist Revolt against Packaged

What is new today may be dead tomorrow. Down with prejudice. Art and culture are a totality. A new aesthetics. A new morality. Communicate by polemics. We have left the Stone Age behind. We have entered the Age of Throwing Stones.

—From the article Marginalia in the magazine O Cruzeiro, 1968

The present moment, the now, is the only tangible reality that still communicates something today.

— Lygia Clark

Tropicália was born from the spirit of the Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibal Manifesto) written by the modernist poet Oswald de Andrade in the 1920s: it dealt with the devouring of foreign cultures, the critical appropriation of art, music and fashion trends from the “First” World, and a concept of hybridity which forged a specific aesthetical meta-Brazilianism from particles and fragments of cultural artifacts, "Canibalism is the only thing that joins us. Socially. Economically. Philosophically,” wrote de Andrade. Tropicália was a new critical language (of art) which intervened on the level of everyday communication and used the possibilities of modern mass communication. Television allowed singers like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, who considered themselves part of the movement, to become mouthpieces of an artistic attitude rejecting the “import of a prepacked and ready-for-use consciousness" (de Andrade).

“The myth of Tropicalism is much more than just parrots and banana trees,” says Hélio Oiticica, the epoch’s leading Brazilian artist, in one of his numerous programmatic texts. For the people living in precarious situations, the energy and vitality, the pleasure in shrill spectacle, and the opening of the field of cultural activity were — without being explicitly political — mainly directed against the oppressive years of the Brazilian military regime which had made an end to comparatively democratic conditions with a coup in 1964. The cultural activists countered the dictatorship’s monotony and monochromy with the country’s rich cultural diversity, which was reassessed aesthetically in a manifold, often ambiguous manner. The aim was to fight “the silly dream and myth of a second-hand technocracy" with creativity, as the important theater director José Celso Martinez de Correa put it.

This anything but pleased the orthodox Left, which saw its wooden world view threatened and rejected Tropicalism as a reactionary, regressive form of art: the artists, musicians, filmmakers, theater people, and poets who identified with the idea, however, did not offer simple ideological solutions, but rather strove to undermine the official version of Brazilian culture, which maintained a unity in diversity that had never existed that way. Haroldo de Campos, a key figure of concrete poetry in Brazil, alleged that Tropicalism was about a “dialogical and dialectical connection with the universal.”

Operating across boundaries of genre and style, Tropicalism relied on allegorical impulses, contradictions, and paradoxical juxtapositions that defied a one-dimensional understanding. “I was never interested in drawing after nature,” said Antonio Dias, who also numbered among those who were crucial in making Tropicália what it was, “I was always concerned with the inner being.”

It was above all Hélio Oiticica who proved an important conceptualist and practitioner of an aesthetics directed toward overcoming the separation of art and life.

Tropicalia >

Singer and composer Caetano Veloso wearing Oiticica’s Parangolé P4 Cape 1, 1968 © Projeto Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.