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UIA (Unlikely Iterations of the Abstract) Other Materials, Other Processes, Other Senses, and Other Stories Bill Arning

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ow long can one really stay in crisis mode, and when does crisis mode reconstitute itself as a perverse vernacular? Unlikely Iterations of the Abstract (aka UIA for faux-corporate realness) looks at what became of the crisis in abstraction that was a salient part of the cultural discourse in the 1990s almost twenty years down the road. This research finds that when art makers and theoreticians welcomed the perverse effects of maintaining a crisis over too long a time period interesting and illuminating effects occur in which potential meanings multiply. Eighteen years ago, when Dana Friis-Hansen, then a curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, conceptualized Abstract Painting, Once Removed, the field of abstraction could truthfully be described as being in crisis. One generation reared on the big, unwieldy truths of Abstract Expressionism was still dominant in the field and ran most of the prestigious MFA programs in painting. The other camps, Conceptualism and postmodern image scavenging, seemed to exist in a different creative galaxy. The postmodernists’ trickster sensibility seemed much more alluring to nimble, media-savvy youths than the angst-ridden Harold Rosenbergian drama-on-canvas, the medium-based essentialism of Clement Greenberg, or even the Matissian elevated aestheticism playing out in pattern-and-decoration and in some quarters of feminist practice. Every received idea of how an art gesture should convey meaning became open to sly recodings, effectively allowing the next generation to have all the fun of those earlier modes of art making without needing to sign up for their overwrought programs. This provoked wild experimentation, a large-scale shucking of the received rules, and blasting off into new languages, materials, and processes. Running into a brick wall resulted in previously unimagined freedoms.

Pages 12—13: UIA (Unlikely Iterations of the Abstract), Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2013—14 (installation view) Page. 14: Tom Burr, Two Blue Night Stands, 2013 (detail) 14

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Outside the Lines  

Presented on the occasion of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's 65th anniversary, Outside the Lines is a six-part exhibition series conc...

Outside the Lines  

Presented on the occasion of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's 65th anniversary, Outside the Lines is a six-part exhibition series conc...

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