The Week in Abstract Art – Relations Between the Masses
Aug 29, 2016
Do space aliens make art? Next year is the 40th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In that movie, aliens communicate with humanity through its artists, using abstract visual and aural prompts to test our species’ readiness for contact with a higher life form. It begs the question: If aliens do make art, what does their art convey? On this planet we tend to make art that conveys the concepts of mass and space. It makes sense. We are masses inhabiting space on a larger mass floating in space among other masses floating in space. On some level alien art would have to address similar concerns, would it not? Aren’t they…universal? We may soon find out. Last week scientists at Chile’s European Southern Observatory discovered “Proxima b,” an earth-like planet 4.2 light years away in the solar system Proxima Centauri. “Proxima b” is in the Goldilocks Zone, meaning the conditions are just right for liquid water and organic life. Our current technology allows us to travel one-tenth the speed of light, meaning we could potentially get a spaceship to “Proxima b” in just 42 years. In preparation for a possible alien culture exchange within our lifetime, here are four current abstract art exhibitions that deal with mass and space in ways we feel inhabitants of any solar system could understand.
Rana Begum: The Space Between, Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London
On view now through 18 September 2016
Rana Begum is a master of spatial integration. Within this multi-faceted exhibition, the exhibition space becomes one with Begum’s aesthetic contribution. It is blissfully unclear whether Begum’s objects are the intended focal point, or whether as the name of the show implies they are highlighters for the surrounding void.
Michael Kidner, Works on Paper, Flowers Gallery, Chelsea, New York
On view now through 27 August 2016
Michael Kidner has been called the UK’s first Op-Artist. His images indeed use a visual language based on pattern that tends to trick the eye. The works on paper included in this exhibition have been selected from two periods of the artist’s oeuvre: the 1960s and the 2000s. They deal with form and space, exploring the way color and structure create a sense of movement, depth and dimensionality within a seemingly fluctuating aesthetic plane.
Michael Kidner - Works on Paper, Installation View
Liz Deschenes, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
On view now through 16 October 2016
This exhibition includes work from the past 20 years of Deschenes’ practice, which uses various contemporary photographic processes to create a dynamic mixture of two and three-dimensional works. Though steeped in process and materiality, the foundation of Deschenes work is the abstract ways that form, color, mass and light influences and interacts with viewers as they move through architectural space.
Installation view, Liz Deschenes, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2016
Arnulf Rainer, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg
On view now through 27 August 2016
A pioneer in the Austrian Informel movement, Arnulf Rainer works in surprising ways with proportion. This exhibition focuses on his work from the 1950s, including an assortment of monochromes that grow out from the surface as he attempts to obscure the painted image, something increasingly impossible with each additional layer. The small, unpainted spaces on the surfaces of these works are seemingly left out of the composition, and yet ultimately assert themselves in support of the larger monochromatic masses, defining them in space.
Arnulf Rainer - Untitled
Featured Image: Rana Begum - No. 591, L Fold' (detail), 2015. Paint on stainless steel, 98 x 118 x 33 cm