Don Voisine’s Restless Shapes

Don Voisine, “Center Square” (2021), oil on wood panel, 12 x 12 inches

Don Voisine is an exquisitely refined, planar geometric painter. He works in oil and acrylic on wood panels that range from 12-inch squares to horizontal rectangles measuring 53 by 80 inches, which is about the largest he can physically move on his own. Within the limits of his scale, which tends toward the intimate, and his reductive, hard-edged geometric vocabulary — I don’t recall ever seeing a curved form in the years that I have been following and writing about his work — he has explored difference and similarity in a way that brings to mind the music of Philip Glass and Terry Riley. Geometric forms that are opaque and transparent, distinct and nuanced, cold and hot, brushed and smooth populate his sensuously restrained paintings. Within these parameters, he has broadened his possibilities incrementally, like a climber scaling a steep mountain with no obvious or visible passage. 

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What Abstraction Can Face Up To

Installation view of Return to Color: Ha Chong-Hyun at Tina Kim Gallery (image by Dario Lasagni)

Ha Chong-Hyun (b. 1935) is one of the central figures in the Dansaekhwa movement, along with Lee Ufan (b. 1936), Park Seo-Bo (B. 1931), and Yun Hyong-keun (1928–2007). The term, which means “monochromatic painting,” is applied to a group of abstract painters who emerged in Korea in the early 1970s, around the time that Park Chung-hee, the third president of South Korea, declared martial law in 1972, virtually ensuring his lifelong dictatorship. His repression of political rivals and denial of personal freedoms only started to end with his assassination in 1979 by Kim Jae Kyu, his lifelong friend and trusted member of his small inner circle. 

For this generation, which had already lived through World War II, Korea’s struggle with Japan for independence, the Korean War, and the division of the country into separate entities, Park’s repressive regime seemed like the ultimate betrayal.

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Julie Mehretu Reminds Us That Borders Are Meant to Be Trespassed

Julie Mehretu, “Black City” (2007), ink and acrylic on canvas, 120 x 192 inches (Pinault Collection, Paris, France, © Julie Mehretu)

For a painter, mark-making is tantamount to the practice of writing. When presented together, collections of strokes might typify a distinctive visual language, particular to the mark-maker. As a graduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design in the 1990s, Julie Mehretu developed a system of mark-making to record mercurial geopolitical processes like migration and globalization. These communities of emphatic strokes and gestures would go on to live in monumental abstract paintings, charged with political inquiry, that distinguish Mehretu as one of today’s most exceptional and critical visual artists. 

Mehretu’s remarkable mid-career survey blazes through the fifth floor of the Whitney Museum of Art, illuminating over two decades of her extensive practice. The retrospective is curated by Christine Y. Kim with Rujeko Hockley and was first installed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through September of 2020 before traveling to the Whitney. Across nearly 30 paintings and 40 works on paper, Mehretu, in this profound and timely survey, captures riotous geographies. Often overrun with communities that dispute, collide, and protest, the artist’s works remind us that borders are designed to be trespassed.

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The Illusion of Order

By Jay Zerbe

A very effective compositional idea is the give the illusion of “order” in a painting, while making small things about the piece deny that order.

It is quite effective. it lulls us with the feeling of quiet. and then, just like noticing a painting is hung just slightly askew on the wall, we start to notice the little things that liven the pieces up.

I’ve selected 4 paintings today that give me that feeling. maybe you will agree! or if not, the idea that I am trying to convey may make you think of other artwork that might fit that criteria.

This is the kind of discussion that happens every day on artistvenu. join us there! where we look, and we think, and we share.

The Border of Abstraction – Where is it?

i have followed the career of Andrew Piedilato for several years. today i’m going to discuss a few of his paintings, and talk about his development over that time period.

this kind of analysis is what we often do in our Focus On Abstraction weekly seminars. Check us out! well worth the small monthly subscription fee.

i have found work by Piedilato that pre-dates the years i will talk about today, but i’m not covering that early work here. but i will say that it is very much in line with the developments he has pursued since then.

this kind of analysis is what we often do in our Focus On Abstraction weekly seminars. Check us out! well worth the small monthly subscription fee.

i have found work by Piedilato that pre-dates the years i will talk about today, but i’m not covering that early work here. but i will say that it is very much in line with the developments he has pursued since then.

the earliest two works are from 2010. the piece, “Hummingbird” depicts in somewhat realistic terms a sinking boat. the horizon of the purple sky is uneven, making the viewer feel the waves of the water. the water itself, painted with varying levels of transparency over a dark background, gives a great feeling of depth and distance. the bottom of the painting, this overlay is slightly translucent, but as that paint migrates up the canvas, it becomes more and more opaque, which an additional depth element. the “subject” is simple to understand. a sinking boat. with shattered pieces floating here and there. but the strikingly great thing is the red bow/prow, rising up just above the horizon, and touching the violet sky. topped by a worn yellow pirate ship bowsprit: a nostalgic? threatening? reference, but either way, adding a bit more emotional depth.

the second painting from 2010 is “Ice Boat II”. here the color palette goes sweet, with the exception of the mustard yellow, with an even more sour subject. another shipwreck, with fragmented broken planks creating a carefully carefree geometric abstraction all on its own. a seemingly chaotic scene, with icebergs in the background, against a romantic peach sky. these discordant relationships – both compositionally, and emotionally, do the reverse of what a Fragonard (of a similar palette) does. here we have chaos and death in (ironic) decorator hues. we sense a deeper message. something that is hard to convey with a completely abstract painting. although a few painters (notably DeKooning) managed to do it. anguish. sorrow. an indifferent universe.

i will be critiquing two more Piedilato paintings in my Focus on Abstraction workshop – exclusively available on artistvenu. so sign up for my workshops (Abstraction Academy), participate in elevated discussions about abstract artwork, as well as your own work, in a safe artist-supportive and artist-supported environment.

hard edge, easy to like?

hard edge abstract painting is not a genre that everyone likes. but then again, people who like hard edge abstraction are less inclined to like abstraction that is “soft” (Mark Tobey, Richard Pousette-Dart, Morris Louis, etc), or somewhat referential (Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Mitchell, Ben Nicholson, etc). hard edge abstraction removes for the most part any indication of brushwork, and usually any reference to recognizable images. what it does provide is a varied experiences: strong composition (Ellsworth Kelley), hit-you-in-the-gut color (Peter Halley), extremely subtle color (late Ad Reinhardt), ascetic discipline (Bridget Riley)… and more. here are a few samples from a few of the hard edge abstractionists that i love!

Conrad Marca-Relli

Conrad Marca-Relli in his studio, 1982 (© Archivio Marca-Relli Parma)

Conrad Marca-Relli (born Corrado Marcarelli; June 5, 1913 Boston – August 29, 2000 Parma) was an American artist who belonged to the early generation of New York School Abstract Expressionist artists whose artistic innovation by the 1950s had been recognized across the Atlantic, including Paris. New York School Abstract Expressionism, represented by Jackson PollockWillem de KooningFranz KlineRobert Motherwell, Marca-Relli and others became a leading art movement of the postwar era.

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