Abstract Minded: Works by Six Contemporary African Artists

Odili Donald Odita, “Metropolitan,” Acrylic on canvas, 68”x 48,” 2017 Like Nitegeka’s Constructivist-inspired paintings, we would like to see

Curated by Nigerian born artist Osi Audu, “Abstract Minded: Works by Six Contemporary African Artists,” at the N’Namdi Center, is an exhibition that surveys a confounding issue in the history of modern art, which is the lineage of the use abstraction in contemporary African art. For most people, their first association with African Art is ethnographic and stereotypical otherness, but also the exotic richness, of “primitive African iconography.” Thanks to the Detroit Institute of Art’s great African collection, many of us have grown up with that legacy. But now it is truly refreshing to get a glimpse of internationally known contemporary African artists in N’Namdi’s iconic space.

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Review: The ancients live on forever in Cy Twombly’s abstract art, now on view at the Getty

Cy Twombly, “Leda and the Swan,” 1962, oil, graphite and wax crayon on canvas(© Cy Twombly Foundation / © The Museum of Modern Art, licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, New York)

Immortality is what makes a god a god. Launching a thunderbolt is an attention-getter, while the transformation of a human projection into an animal avatar can be disconcerting. Feeding a multitude with just five loaves and two measly fishes — now that’s impressive.

But immortality seals the deal. Globally, assorted gods have patrolled assorted underworlds for millennia, with death as their gloomy guard duty. But, with rare exception, gods themselves don’t die. That makes them different from you and me.

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Richard Graville – ‘SOLUTION’ 2022 (100x100cm) and ‘CLEAR’ 2022 (80x80cm) both Flashe and acrylic on canvas

Returning home from the Private View for ‘We Like The Taste of Certain Poisons’, I am compelled to write something immediately about this small but compelling exhibition of Richard Graville’s paintings at NoHawkers Gallery, which is situated in the Rodhus complex of studios and workshops in Brighton.

Some sense of urgency (including the use of my iPhone photographs – so apologies to the artist) is due to the fact that the show is only open for two days and that if someone were to read this hurried review in time they might make it to see the exhibition.

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Philip Guston’s Pinks and Reds

Philip Guston, City, 1969, Private Collection

Philip Guston was one of the most courageous and controversial painters to come out of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. Critics called the 1950s Guston’s “mandarin” (influential) years. For years, he’d been creating paintings that were abstract and lush. Suddenly, he deviated, yearning to break free. He said, “I got sick and tired of all that purity! I wanted to tell stories!”

Thus began the paintings of political and social satire derived from Guston’s sense of profound distaste with current affairs.

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Betty Parsons – A Life In Art

In 1913, Parsons visited the Armory show, the International Exhibition of Modern Art. She was delighted and inspired by what she saw and described this pivotal moment years later: “It was exciting, full of color and life. I felt like those paintings. I couldn’t explain it, but I decided then that this was the world I wanted… art.”

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Norman Bluhm’s Second Act

Norman Bluhm, “Viper Lady” (1979), oil on canvas, 77 x 107 inches

The case for Norman Bluhm has been building for some time. He has been written about favorably on more than one occasion by discerning critics such as Raphael Rubinstein and Barry Schwabsky.  His monographic survey, Norman Bluhm: Metamorphosis at the Newark Museum (February 13–August 20, 2020), curated by Tricia Laughlin Bloom and Jay Grimm, expanded his legacy, but more remains to be done. His debut exhibition at Miles McEnery Gallery, Norman Bluhm (July 28–September 1, 2022), clarifies the degree of Bluhm’s innovation and individuality when he began making the best work of his career in the 1970s. 

Long considered a member of Abstract Expressionism’s “second generation,” Bluhm gravitated toward European painting far more than his contemporaries, with the exception of Joan Mitchell. Bluhm and Mitchell weren’t haunted by the idea that they had to embody “American” painting.

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