Abstract art exhibit celebrates influential artists

“Conceptual Abstraction,” a new exhibit at the Hunter College/Times Square Gallery, displays some of the most fascinating, colorful pieces of abstract art painted over the last 20 years by 20 artists who have made an impact in the world.

Pepe Karmel, an associate professor of art history at NYU and one of the curators, said one of the exhibit’s goals is to cut through the veil of celebrity that surrounds the contemporary art world and to focus on the painters.

“Beyond that, we want to show that the old dogmas about painting being dead, especially abstract painting, are just plain wrong,” Karmel said. “Once you abandon the determinist theories of art that used to be so popular, you can recognize what terrific work is being done now.”

Karmel became involved with the exhibition because he is currently writing a book called “Abstract Art: A Global History, 1910-2010.”

“It was a wonderful challenge to be handed the opportunity to help organize an exhibition corresponding to the last section of my book,” Karmel said.

“Conceptual Abstraction” is a re-envisioning of a previous exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York in 1991, where the same artists displayed their work. The new “Conceptual Abstraction” symbolically reunites these artists. Their work from 1991 and their contemporary pieces are displayed side by side, putting an emphasis on the development of the artists as well as the development of the abstract school art.

Co-curator Joachim Pissarro, Bershad professor of Art History and director of the Hunter College Galleries, recognizes the significance of the show.

“Some 20 years later, the Hunter College Art Galleries have undertaken the task of revisiting this turning point in abstract painting’s history,” Pissarro wrote in an introduction to the exhibition. “The Janis exhibition was prescient in identifying the members of a core group of young artists who have evolved to become leaders within the contemporary painting scene.”

Tisch freshman Clare Moses said each of the art pieces, though deceptively simple, formed a complex and sophisticated vision.

“The whole is the sum of its parts. I know that’s cliché,” Moses said. “They’re all composed of rather simple elements, but when you look at the small pieces in context of the whole work you can see the vision.”

“Conceptual Abstraction” is open through Nov. 10 at the Hunter College/Times Square Gallery, 450 W. 41st St.

Shirley Kaneda.  Plumb Askew, 2011.  Oil on linen, 72 x 63 in. (182.9 x 160 cm).
Courtesy of the artist.  Photo: © Bill Orcutt.

Jonathan Keshigologou is a staff writer. Email him at features@nyunews.com. 

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