The theme of this exhibition is rooted in the contemporary debate on modern-day abstract art. Nuevas abstracciones (New Abstractions) displays a selection of sixty works produced between 1987 and 1995 by twenty-nine European and American artists, asserting the main premise that abstract painting moves away from the theory of modern art in the Nineties. The exhibition, therefore, considers the critique and surmounting of the formal dogmatism that Abstract Expressionism has been reduced to, and the subsequent consequences, by means of the final essays by the art critic Clement Greenberg and other experts that suggest painting that is devoid of references, purged of everything outside the medium.
Hence the conception of abstract painting in recent years being visualised as “redefined abstraction” after rejecting a new death of painting, traversing minimalist and conceptual movements, and after the emergence of photography, large-scale sculpture and installations in the Eighties. The art critic, Demetrio Paparoni, refers to this term, found throughout the works displayed here as, “fin-de-siècle abstraction that does not set out to reinvent the style or reaffirm one stance and compare it with another, instead its aim is to serve as a dialectic instrument between forms and diverse theories that are at times incompatible or diametrically opposed.”
Plurality and autonomy are the leading principles that the work of the artists in this exhibition is based on, forming a homage to painting and painting practices that is free from meta-artistic intentions. The display proposes a new abstract order depicting a representative, not figurative, tendency that bears witness to the versatile limits of this new category following the fall of modernity, as upheld by the art critic Arthur C. Danto.
New abstractions can be perceived as classification through subjectivity that borders on the limits of the real (Luis Gordillo, Ferran García Sevilla, Philip Taaffe), the traces of geometry, memory and the city (Ross Bleckner, Charo Pradas, Ian Davenport, Sean Scully, Peter Halley, Juan Uslé), the inclination towards chromatic fields and lyrical abstraction (Gerhard Richter, Mary Heilmann, José Manuel Broto, Ian McKeever), the organic (Bernard Frize, Darío Urzay, Terry Winters, Olav Christopher Jenssen) and the expressive imprint (Xavier Grau, Günther Förg, Per Kirkeby).
Enrique Juncosa, the exhibition's curator, stresses how, “the new abstract painters use the modern style of art as a medium and not as an end, thus attempting to recover from the decline of the idealism of art from the Sixties onwards.” Their work is not only fuelled by the critique of pure abstraction and irony, the history of painting appears enclosed in their canvases, portrayed by the use of colour or the intention of working with passions instead of objects.
Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany (July 28 - September 22, 1996); Museu d'Art Contemporani, Barcelona (October 10 - November 30, 1996)
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