76 Grand Street
Curated by Kathy Grayson
CONSTRACTION, an exhibition of conceptual abstraction curated by Kathy Grayson, opened at Deitch Projects on June 28, 2008. While our Spring 2008 exhibition SUBSTRACTION, curated by Nicola Vassell, explored street-inspired action painter abstraction, this sister exhibition complemented our survey of new trends in abstraction by comprising the best of conceptual painting and sculpture.
Many young artists at that time revived strategies in abstraction that fell into disuse and reinvigorated them with contemporary concerns. Reshuffling the deck of conceptualism and minimalism, they used new technology and fresh sensibilities to further the projects of the last century’s best abstract artists.
Tauba Auerbach pushed conceptual text work and word play past its logical conclusion into the absurd. With a strong dose of pattern and design, she made linguistic tricks and visual puns vital again through her background in sign painting and her handmade aesthetic. In this exhibition, she included paintings of seemingly uniform op-art ink dot fields that, at a distance, resolved into images of crumpled paper and a 50/50 graphic black and white tiled floor whose vigorous pattern seemed to deny the fact that it was exactly half black and half white. Such deceptive versions of this 50/50 idea were explored in her forthcoming book 50/50, available that fall through D.A.P.
Joe Bradley was a minimal man to the extent that he was interested in the least amount of action or work required to turn his materials into “artwork.” He explored how pared-down he could make an arrangement of colored rectangles and still have it read as a figure, or how slightly changing the shape of one square could make a standing man “run.” His non-figurative work was full of dead-pan punning: a clump of tall light brown rectangles was called Bread, a large blue rectangle on the floor was called Mirror. In this exhibition, he composed new vinyl wall works that were more than paintings but less than objects.
Peter Coffin was a versatile conceptual sculptor who occasionally put whimsy into the traditionally serious genre of modernist sculpture. He often worked with conventional ideas that were rendered absurd by one further rotation of thought. Various projects included weaving iconic works of modernist sculpture into a fairytale (think Brancusi's Infinite Column meets Jack and the Beanstalk), an Allan McCollum-esque repetitive array—of plant life, and a video wall not unlike those Nam June Paik made popular in the pre-digital information age that ran footage of animals at play. In the same exhibition was a minimal-looking kinetic sculpture designed for daily balloon releases. In this exhibition, Coffin installed a rotating disk of translucent colors reminiscent of a 'party disc' that spun slowly just under the gallery skylight; a sort of cheap natural light display that continually altered the feel of the exhibition.
Xylor Jane made intense and repetitive op art paintings based not on Sol LeWitt-ish geometry or logic, but instead on her crazy calendars, journals, and personal prime number systems. Instead of sober repetition of discrete visual order, Xylor used her obsessive personal observations and usually fairly simple algorithms to make very exuberant and sometimes inadvertently psychedelic handmade paintings. In one piece, she made black and phosphorescent marks that changed in orientation and phosphorescence with the calendar over 11.22 years, where “art career” events and “failure misery and demise” affected the coding of the months. In the new series created for this exhibition, she charted her near-death experiences.
Mitzi Pederson put elegance and tension into minimal materials not known for their grace: cinderblock, wood, and plastic. Instead of a Richard Serra prop piece, we had two curved and be-glittered pieces of wood held in perfect counterpoise by simple string or cellophane. A cinderblock pile was treated to the sweet and subtle detailing of a haute couture gown by precise glittering of every broken edge. Mitzi rarely treated the front of objects, but never forgot to treat the sides or back. Her site-specific sculptures took frumpy materials and boring architecture and harmonized them into lyrical, seemingly lightweight concoctions that rethought the minimal object.
Ara Peterson came out of an efflorescence of very maximal and very figurative art in Providence Rhode Island. At the center of this activity, Ara had nonetheless always had his focus in experimental video with a minimal aesthetic. His videos often coupled simple concepts with repetitive and expanding abstract imagery. A series of exploding and interweaving diamond forms built to a multiple, transparent thicket of bursting energy and noise. A small triangle of abstract video reflected into a giant glowing geodesic sphere of pulsating video in a recent collaboration with Jim Drain. His sculptures and wall works were laser-cut painted wood slats whose choppy undulations came from patters generated by his experiments in video. In these, the video data met the motions of the videos met the sound waves of the videos all made 3D and painted bright pop colors.
In sync with the playfulness of these artists with respect to their art historical precedents, CONSTRACTION as a title meant to suggest not only conceptual abstraction, but also both Russian Constructivism and the idea of the “contraption.” The new strategies of conceptual abstraction exhibited were all tied to concrete social phenomena, and often used the latest technology and, in that sense, owed something to Constructivism. It was fun and enlightening to see, say, Joe Bradley’s vinyl parallelograms in the context of Kasimir Malevich. But as was the case with many Russian Constructivist sculptures, many of the works in the exhibition owed something to the awkward, wonky-ness of a “contraption” as well. This humbling persistence of handmade-ness was one of the signature elements of these young artists, who didn’t take themselves, or their materials, too seriously.
Both CONSTRACTION and SUBSTRACTION were be documented in a box set put out by Charta Books in Spring 2009.
March 8 - 11, 2018
We will present a special solo project by the artist JR.
Image: JR, Migrants, Walking New York City, 2015
April - May 2018
18 Wooster Street
76 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013
Monday – Friday
10 AM – 6 PM
Tuesday – Saturday
Noon – 6 PM
The gallery reopens with People in April 2018.
+1 (212) 343-7300
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