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Saatchi’s Abstract America Today

May 27, 2014

ArtsGroup ExhibitionMixed MediaPainting | by Maxine Kirsty Sapsford


Lisa Anne Auerbach, Oops! Toxic B.S., 2014, Mannequin with Merino wool, 152.4 x 30.5 x 61 cm, Installation view, Abstract America Today, Saatchi Gallery, Image M.K.Sapsford, Permission courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London
Lisa Anne Auerbach, Oops! Toxic B.S., 2014, Mannequin with Merino wool, 152.4 x 30.5 x 61 cm, Installation view, Abstract America Today, Saatchi Gallery, Image M.K.Sapsford, Permission courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

 

Opening tomorrow the Saatchi gallery’s newest offerings come together under the title of Abstract America Today. Nine artists have been cherry picked from the cream of America’s young, bold, Abstract talent and laid out across the top floor of the expansive gallery for our perusal. The Saatchi gallery is now in its 25th year of supporting emerging artists and is unwavering in this commitment to bring us the tantalising and often untraditional from the rising stars of the global art world. Clearly these are young artists working in America, that part of the curation is correct, but with so much of the work that has already journeyed through this fast paced gallery space being abstract in nature, why an exhibition titled Abstract? Is Abstract gaining new ground? Or is it merely a nod back to the American fathers of Abstract Expressionism and the birthplace of this iconic movement?

 

In either case Abstract Art is clearly thriving and current in America and true to form, Saatchi isn’t scared to bring together polar opposites in terms of artwork mediums. Where else can one see duct tape and knitting in one exhibition? However, I sense there will again be a question mark hanging over the ‘Abstract’ nature of some of the works in this show, as there was of the gallery’s similarly named Abstract America which took place in 2009. Are knitted suspender-patterned leggings abstract? 

 

Brent Wadden, Alignment (21), 2013, Painting- Hand woven fibers, wool, cotton and acrylic on canvas 205 x 185 cm, (c) Wadden, 2013, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London
Brent Wadden, Alignment (21), 2013, Painting- Hand woven fibers, wool, cotton and acrylic on canvas
205 x 185 cm, (c) Wadden, 2013, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

 

The preceding 2009 counterpart exhibition was met with mixed reviews, the main question raised being that of whether this was a collection of truly Abstract works. On the fence myself in regard to the whole shows claim to Abstraction, I remember one piece in particular from the show; Aaron Young’s painting Greeting Card 10a, named after the Pollock painting Untitled (Greeting Card for 1944). Young made his work by layering up paint and letting a team of 12 motorcyclists burn rubber all over its surface, creating patterns as their tyres ripped through the layers of colour. Aesthetically very similar to the aforementioned 1944 Pollock, Young took the great artists ‘action painting’ to a new place with this echo of Pollock’s painting performances. This piece stayed with me not only for Young’s unique method (lets face it, gimmicky or not it’s tough to do something completely original in the art world) but for the depth of its comparison to Pollock and how it (even if the relevance of the other works were in question) was rooted cleverly and sincerely in Abstract Expressionism. Rather than the work being a victim of subject-matter-shoehorning, as is often the case when a curator has a particular exhibition agenda which might not have actually factored in the works creation.

 

Keltie Ferris, 00>><<00, 2011, Oil, acrylic, oil pastel and spray paint on canvas, 203.2 x 203.2 cm, Installation view, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London
Keltie Ferris, 00>><<00, 2011, Oil, acrylic, oil pastel and spray paint on canvas, 203.2 x 203.2 cm, Installation view, Abstract America Today, Saatchi Gallery, Image M.K.Sapsford, Permission courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

There is no such in-your-face controversial star piece that stands out for me at this new instalment of American abstract art. But if you know where to look there are elements of the excitingly different yet 1950s-abstract-rooted, as well as statements on current popular culture that move Abstract Art out of the past and into the relevant and the now. A quiet gem I recommend paying special attention to is the work of Keltie Ferris, which will prompt you to check the prescription in your eye-ware, with its contrasting fuzzy edged and hard lined areas of paint. Using spray paint on top of paint brushed marks, you can draw a line of references from Pollocks dripped paint (similarly applied from a distance), to modern day graffiti. Ferris’s works are also not un-Rothko-like in their tonal values, their hazy colour borders and somehow, despite their unashamedly much busier content; when you zone in on a small section of the busy canvases and let yourself become immersed in the works, they seem to share in a little of the late Abstract Master’s quiet reverence and calm.

 

Words Maxine Kirsty Sapsford, Arts Editor

 

Abstract America Today opens from tomorrow until 28th September 2014. Entry is free, for more information go to http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/abstract_america_today/