In the Abstract
January 15 - February 27, 2021
In the Abstract features works by Kenneth Noland (1924-2010), Stephen Pace (1918-2010), Syd Solomon (1917-2004), and Ann Purcell (b. 1941). Each of these artists' work shows an intense relationship with both color and form, from the looseness of Pace’s early work from the 1950’s to the most recent painting in the exhibition by Noland, done in 2006. The works show a range of abstract practice and mark making, taking us through a unique history of American abstract painting.
Stephen Pace’s paintings in this exhibition represent his early work when he was studying under Hans Hofmann, whose teachings emphasized structure and focus on Abstract Expressionism. After the 1950’s we see Pace’s style begin to take more of a personal approach, drawing on the landscape and forms around him. He maintained a loose gestural style of painting, but as time went on figures became a central point in most of his works.
Five paintings by Ann Purcell are in the exhibition, all of which are from the late 1970’s. This was early in the artist’s career; these works show a subtle specificity of form and deliberate mark making. Her pieces progress after this time into darker and deeper color tones with much more energetic movement. She allowed drips to run on the canvas and layered paint, also incorporating collage. She employs both gestural and analytical approaches to her paintings, working within tensions of paradox, ambiguity, and dualities. Her method is related to dance - an important form for her beginning in her childhood—as well as to music, while she draws on her thorough grounding in European and American Expressionist traditions.
Stephen Pace’s painting from 1953, Untitled (52-50b) shares both form and color qualities with Purcell’s work, Harlequin Spring, done in 1978. They especially share a similar linear technique when moving from one color to the next, each of them using a dry brush technique in areas to layer without completely covering the previous color marks.
Solomon creates depth through layering acrylic and aerosol enamel. His paintings Flightfancy, 1979 and Spar, 1973 are featured in this exhibition. These pieces, from a bit later in his career, lean more graphic and with brighter colors. Solomon was recognized as one of the first artists to use acrylic paint, experimenting with the new medium in many ways. He was also one of the first artists to use aerosol sprays and combine them with resists. He has multiple layered gestures on the canvas with larger sections of flat tones on top, creating vantage points that push visually in and out of the works.
Noland’s, Into the Cool, uses acrylic gel medium to produce three dimensional marks on the canvas. He also treated the canvas from the back as another layer of dimensionality. His works on handmade paper from 2007 especially show his interest at this time in mixed media which provided the addition of texture and layering to his explorations of color relationships.
Noland studied at Black Mountain College under Josef Albers, who fostered experimentation and the importance of learning various techniques. This was a stark educational contrast to how Hofmann was teaching Stephen Pace and others in New York. Noland’s pieces in the show exemplify experimentation and utilizing new media and techniques built off of his interests of the past decades.
In the Abstract presents us with works spanning the last seventy years, however the modes of abstraction utilized in these pieces feels incredibly timely. They are representations of raw emotion, lacking clarity or answers. Instead they open up the viewer to more questions, allowing us to focus on the distortion of views rather than what we know. To be a participant in the work we have to let go of control and become a part of the process.