Confronting the Canvas: Women of Abstraction
June 4, 2016 - September 4, 2016
ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM has historically been defined by male artists who rose to fame in post-World War II America. While women were practicing unique modes of painting alongside their male counterparts, they were given little emphasis or attention within the canon of art history both then and now. Confronting the Canvas: Women of Abstraction does not attempt to rewrite history, but instead it identifies and gives prominence to emerging and mid-career women working in the field of gestural abstraction today.
Consisting of six contemporary painters and approximately thirty works, this exhibition explores the manner in which these women appropriate both the physical, dramatic processes and the expressive freedom of direct gesture at the core of action painting, redeploying the now-historic style to boldly advance the abstract painting of our time. Confronting the Canvas is not necessarily a revisionist perspective of the New York School but a report from the front line about the current state of abstraction by women painters living and working in New York today. Confronting the Canvas is one of the first museum exhibitions to focus solely on contemporary female painters.
New York-based artist Keltie Ferris employs a spray gun to paint, or in her own words “bedazzle,” a canvas. By doing so, she transforms a two-dimensional surface into pulsating layers of mark and color. Often discussed in terms of graffiti or the digital age, Ferris' experimentation with dots, splats, streaks, and swirls in yellows, pinks, purples, blues, even white, harmonize throughout the geometric fields.
Photo credit: Mark Mahaney. Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.
With their symmetrical compositions, intricate patterns, and lush colors, Maya Hayuk's paintings and massively scaled murals recall views of outer space, traditional Ukrainian crafts, airbrushed manicures, and mandalas. Hayuk weaves visual information from her immediate surroundings into her elaborate abstractions, creating an engaging mix of referents from popular culture and advanced painting practices alike, while connecting to the ongoing pursuit of psychedelic experience in visual form.
Photo courtesy of Pascale Brischoux and MIMAMUSEUM.EU
, Brussels, March 2016.
The color field paintings by Jill Nathanson are rich with contradiction as they explore color energies, material versus immaterial, as well as tensions between form and color. Process oriented, she embarks on a thorough practice of creating studies from torn transparent paper before finalizing placements and hues. Nathanson then pours polymer gels of hand-crafted oils and acrylics into elegant, fluid paintings on panel.
Photo by Polite Photographic.
The paintings of Australian-born Fran O'Neill rely upon a construction/deconstruction equation, where she uses her physical body to produce, alter, destroy, and recreate oversized gestures. Layer upon layer, O'Neill applies paint only to swipe, smear, and remove it with her body or another material. Her paintings are as much as an additive process as a subtractive one, where at times she reinvents imagery on the same canvas. Most recently, her large-scale gestural paintings capture one movement within a square canvas.
Image courtesy of the artist.
In 2008, abstract painter Jackie Saccoccio first began an ambitious body of work relating to portraiture. Her “improvisational portraits,” as she refers to them, are borne out of her interest in centrifugal forces in portraits. As she reinterprets portraiture, she researched the materials, such as mica, utilized by Renaissance painters. Evolving the practice, Saccoccio's surfaces are freckled with mica and translucent varnishes, creating multilayered planes of shifting forms. In these large-scale paintings, Saccoccio's process includes tipping, dragging, and shaking the large-scale works over one another, where liquid pools of color, directional lines, and translucent orbs coexist.
Portrait of Jackie Saccoccio with Portrait (Candy). Photo credit: Anna D'Alvia.
German-émigré Anke Weyer extends the practice of gestural abstraction by surrendering to the process and permitting herself the freedom to act uninhibited and uncompromising by overthinking such a gestural practice. In the large vertical compositions, Weyer's bold, expressive brushstrokes and intense colors vibrate off the canvas.
Photo by Aidas Bareikis.
With over ten years of curatorial and exhibition experience in contemporary art, Curator Jaime DeSimone conceives and implements the exhibition program and manages the Permanent Collection. At MOCA Jacksonville, DeSimone has curated Project Atrium: Shinique Smith and Confronting the Canvas: Women of Abstraction, the first museum show to focus on contemporary female abstract painters. She was previously the exhibitions project coordinator at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, where she managed a portfolio of exhibitions, including Calder and Abstraction and FreePort No. 008: Celeste Boursier-Mougenot. From 2005 to 2012, DeSimone served as the assistant curator at the Addison Gallery of American Art, located on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where she curated a number of exhibitions, including Flash Back: November 23, 1963 (2013), The Civil War: Unfolding Dialogues (2011), and Kara Walker: Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) (2008). She holds a master's degree in American contemporary art from American University (2005) and a bachelor's degree in art history from Bates College (2001).
Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.