The Abstract Question, at AAWR: Part I, Tangents
Dual exhibitions at the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve explore North East Ohio’s long running interest in geometric abstraction. The first, Tangents, asks the question: “Why is making abstract work still important?” Jenniffer Omaitz’s curatorial debut boasts a serious panel of artists working in abstraction, primarily of the geometric variety, each with unique and individual voices. (A second exhibition, A Hard Line, draws from AAWR’s permanent collection, and mostly an earlier generation of artists.) An examination of Tangents reveals overlapping and divergent themes that connect the works from one of these contemporary artists to another, including theory and subject explorations, as well as technique and stylistic approaches. In doing so, that question finds many answers.
By gathering works of David Louis Cintron, Gianna Commito, Mark Howard, Mark Keffer, Natalie Lanese, Catherine Lentini, Ed Raffel, Andrew Reach and Susan Squires, Omaitz illustrates the many ways abstraction can be used to explore the human condition. Whether exploring our visual perception of the world around us, or taking a more psychological and spiritual perspective, each artist enhances Omaitz’ message that abstract art, “…combines ways of thinking and making that interact with the temporal…”
David Louis Cintron’s more painterly and expressionistic piece, Crushed, pairs well with Gianna Commito’s Untitled watercolor from 2017. Each artist begins their paintings with no preconceived notion of the end result. While these two works share a similar color palette, they also have compositional elements that direct the eye to move around the pieces. While stylistically very different, they each construct spaces built on fragmenting overlapping structures. Commito states, “All the pieces have some kind of framing device that is either pushing out from the center or compressing in from the edge, or both.” This push and pull within her work keeps the eye moving. Similarly, Cintron states that he seeks to discover a balance “between form and formlessness,” as he plays with recognizable elements that are intentionally left ambiguous. Each of these pieces has a collage-like feel to them–Cintron emphasizes the natural, while Commito references a more architectural influence–creating all over compositions that keep the viewer’s eyes moving.
Movement also comes into play visually through digitally animated images as well as mechanically composed sculptural constructions. Using 3D modeling to create Quadrabar I, Andrew Reach has been able to expand his two-dimensional works into more architectural renderings that allow the viewer to experience the work from multiple vantage points on screen, and simultaneously as a two-dimensional printed work of art displayed side-by-side. Reach writes of his 3D Derivative series, that “looking at the structure from different vantage points… (reveals) that our perception of reality depends on our point of view.”
Utilizing mirrors, Ed Raffel exploits reflections to change the viewer’s perception and spatial orientation, and to interject a sense of movement into the pieces. His work with diad mirrors (two panes touching, ag an angle) serve multiple functions: “These front surface mirror diads are rather miraculous in that they affect three optical illusions simultaneously,” Raffel writes. To start, they present the viewer with a reversed reflection of themselves, which can have an uncanny effect on our perceptions of ourselves. They also enhance and replicate the color panels that surround them, providing further illusionistic depth. This interaction with space is exploited in It Always Comes Back to You by mechanically rotating three levels of linked, mirrored pods that move in opposite directions. The effect dissects the viewer’s reflections, creating a dissociation with one’s own self with an absurdist sense of humor.
Omaitz will give a curator’s talk from 1 – 2 pm Saturday, December 2. In the program at the AAWR, she will discuss her experience of curating the exhibition, as well as the works selected. In Tangents, viewers are able to discover how abstraction can challenge the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Through her selections, Omaitz illustrates how abstraction permits both artist and viewer the ability to grapple with ideas that are otherwise elusive through representational art.