Face to Face: Recent Abstract Painting

Abstract art of muted earthen colors and various sizes, some connected to others with colored lines, line gallery walls.

Installation view, Face To Face: Recent Abstract Painting, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 1996. Archival slide. 

Hayden Gallery and Reference Gallery
Featured Artists
April Hankins
Prudencio Irazabal
Shirley Kaneda
Byron Kim
Fabian Marcaccio
Dona Nelson
David Ortins
JoAnn Rothschild
Sandy Walker
Explore all artists who have exhibited at the List in our Artist Index.

Much recent art has involved overt social and political topics and has included text or recognizable, often media-based imagery.

How is looking at a painting, without an immediate external reference, a different experience for the viewer? While this exhibition makes no claim of comprehensiveness, the variety of strategies employed by the ten participating artists demonstrate the vitality and relevance of abstraction as it approaches its centennial.

Curators Ron Platt and Helaine Posner have assembled a large group of artists to explore abstraction in painting today. April Hankin’s deft mathematics injects a freshness into the tradition of systematic mark-making. Fandra Chang’s hard-edged geometries defy hardnosed analysis in both their mysterious process of production and their equally mysterious effect. David Ortins’s geometric shapes find their voices in the bold clarity of primary colors even as they loosen and complicate their contours. Sandy Walker revivifies the tradition of expressionist painting as an arena of self-encounter; JoAnn Rothschild also is driven to create spaces and situations “in which we apprehend ourselves.”

The previous history of abstract painting is a well-stocked hunting ground for all of these artists; Shirley Kaneda and Fabian Marcaccio are perhaps the most forthright in their self-conscious pillaging of motifs and devices to new and sassy effect. Dona Nelson gives herself over to the risky unpredictability of her materials, free-associating as she scavenges from earlier painters and other abstract traditions. The paradoxical inexhaustibility of single color painting is demonstrated by the smart, handsome, and oddly moving conceptual panels of Byron Kim. Prudencio Irazabal’s magical monochromes belie the literalism of the many superimposed paint layers he leaves exposed along the edges. 

Catalogue with essay by Katy Kline and artist entries by curators Katy Kline, Ron Platt and Helaine Posner, 10 color reproductions, artist biographies, and bibliographies.