Contributed by Adam Simon / In a November 2022 article titled “Between Abstraction and Representation” in the New York Review of Books, Jed Perl lamented the equivocating position that many contemporary painters take in relation to abstraction and figuration. In his view, what was once a philosophical battleground, with two strongly held opposing positions, was now seen as merely a choice of equally viable means. His article focused on two artists, Julie Mehretu and Gerhardt Richter – Mehretu for inserting representational imagery in what appear as abstract paintings and Richter for ping-ponging between figuration and abstraction. What Perl doesn’t mention is the rich terrain of indeterminacy that results when artwork hovers between abstraction and figuration. Marcy Rosenblat’s solo show “Undercover,” now up at 490 Atlantic Gallery in Brooklyn, is a particularly successful example.
There has long been a figurative/abstract spectrum and most contemporary painting falls somewhere on it, not exclusively at one end or the other. Modernist artists identified as pure abstractionists, such as Ellsworth Kelly or Anne Truitt, considered their own work to be derived from observation. An artist like Cecily Brown seamlessly merges abstract gesture and figurative imagery.
Featured image: Marcy Rosenblat, Split, 2023, pigment and silica medium on canvas, 48 x 50 inches
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