Curated by Robert G. Edelman
AFP Gallery, Fuller Building, 41 East 57th St., 7thfloor, New York, (212) 230-1003
February 8 – March 20, opening reception February 15, 6 – 8 pm
“If you are an artist the problem is to make a picture work whether you are happy or not.” Willem de Kooning
The recent MoMA survey exhibition of the tumultuous body of work of Willem de Kooning was a timely opportunity for artists and art lovers to assess a career that has in many ways encapsulated the roller-coaster ride of 20th century art. What was quite apparent after walking through the show, finishing in the room of sublime and poetic works from the 80s (in spite of his dementia), is that de Kooning never felt that he had to choose between so called representation and abstraction; that one fed the other, and an artist could and must pursue their path regardless of trends, doctrine, punditry, market pressures or pubic opinion. To say that de Kooning followed his inner demon/angel is merely to state the obvious, except that we need to be reminded that a post-Clement Greenberg manifesto (i.e., paintings should be true to their two-dimensional surface) environment finds us back at square one: how to make a work of art that comes from personal experience and vision and still have a voice in the contemporary art dialogue.
(click any image for an enlarged slideshow)
This exhibition is conceived on the premise that representational and abstract art must not only co-exist; they can and should also have a conversation. The underlying or unifying premise for this show is that artists are always challenged by the process of bringing an image or composition to life, whether it’s what one expects when starting out or not, finallyarriving at some resting, or unsettling, place. This sense of place, of a world in transition, can beexpressed in ways that are more elusive than labels like representation and abstraction, so that a viewer can also get past these distinctions and their obvious limitations. A receptive viewer should also be able to see how each artist has taken liberties, or reinvented their imagery or iconography to make it work, despite moving toward or away from the limits of mere representation or post Abstract-Expressionistdoctrine.
The artists’ work included in this exhibition represents a contemporaneous cross-section of the challenges of image invention and realization that has been an issue for more than 100 years in Western art. In the US, each decade since the 1940’s has brought a sea change in philosophy and approach to artistic production, as if this were a necessity or a mandate of cultural evolution. Today one sees almost every one of these collective “movements”; Ab-Ex, Color-Field, Op and Pop Art, Minimalism, Feminist,Performance and Conceptual, Photo-Realism and Neo-Expressionism, finally evolving into a broadly-defined sense of the Post-Modern, which seems to encompass many if not all of these approaches.
The creative process is about, among other things, the distinctive movement and energy of the artist’shand (using charcoal, brush, camera or metal, etc.), the interpretation of the visual world through form, light, shadow and color, and perhaps most of all, the process of bringing the work to life. As a means of suggesting a visual continuity, the artists here have in one way or another confronted the notion of transition, or evolution, within the picture plane or 3-D space. Images, recognizable or not, that convey thisprocess of realization, the getting from here to there;and for all of us a chance to go along for the ride.
Andre von Morisse