Thursday, January 25, 2007

‘Big Bang!’ at DeCordova

Here’s my review of the DeCordova Museum’s new exhibit “Big Bang! Abstract Painting for the 21st Century.” It’s a show that nicely frames a trend: abstract painting that mimics the look of science and technology.

It’s another example of our technologically modified, synthetic Sims world as the primarily art subject of this moment. Some of the works included are, from top, Julie Miller’s “o(11)”; Barbara Takenaga’s “Angel”; and Cristi Rinklin’s “Ecstatic Beautification.”

Walking around the show, I kept thinking about what else is happening in contemporary abstraction, and much of the exciting stuff isn’t painting.

Mainly what’s missing is crafty abstraction (the blatantly handmade stuff made in rebellion against our manufactured environment) and go-for-broke attitude.

At the crafty end, I think of Bostonian Isabel Riley’s knit and quilted sculptures (see “Heaven’s Gate” at left); Providence artist Cristin Searles’ cloth sculptures; and Fort Thunder alum Jim Drain’s tribal-style knit sculptures. MassArt’s “Crafty” show last fall included a number of people making strong work in this mode.

There’s that whole rainbows and diamonds school of contemporary abstraction – folks like Australian Josh Petherick who get written up in The Drama.

And then I think of Providence’s Mat Brinkman (above) and Bostonian Eric Shaw, whose prints and drawings are filled with more wild energy than most everything at DeCordova.

Their work often includes people or monsters, but their characters are abstracted in a way that doesn’t look all that different from, say, Laurel Sparks’ “Nature’s Clown” (left) in the DeCordova show. If all the stuff in “Big Bang” that looks like constellations, smoke, dot matrix printouts and microscopic organisms counts as abstraction, then do you include Brinkman or Shaw?

“Big Bang! Abstract Painting for the 21st Century,” DeCordova Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln, Jan. 20 to April 22, 2007.


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