Abstract. The word itself is, well, somewhat abstract. It signifies something that is often difficult to comprehend. As an art form, it has confounded viewers and some critics for decades. But, like all viable movements, this hasn’t prevented it from growing and encompassing new ideas.
A new art exhibit which opened at the Austin Peay State University Trahern Gallery this month will showcase the art form’s entry into the 21st century. “Jettison – New Ideas in Abstraction” began on Sept. 8th and will continue through Sept. 25th features works from 17 artists, including some of the top names in the country working in this genre, such as Thomas Nozkowski, Jonathan Lasker and Josh Smith.
The artists in the show have exhibited their work through North America and Europe. Nozkowski’s paintings are currently featured in collections such as of The Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum, all in New York City. Lasker’s paintings are part of collections including the Museum Ludwig, in Cologne, Germany, The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Fond National d’Art Contemporain in Paris. Smith’s work is featured in the Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst in Oslo, Norway, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others.
“There’s been more attention on abstraction in the last few years,” Warren Greene, show curator and director of the Trahern Gallery, said. “There’s been a lot of inspiration, in terms of how you approach abstraction that’s different than the way it was practiced throughout most of the 20th century.”
Abstract art has sometimes been criticized over the years as lacking substance and style, but as noted art researcher Ruth Crnkovich writes in an essay on the Jettison show, “with just a bit of quiet contemplation and thoughtful evaluation, the subtle meanings begin to reveal themselves to the viewer.”
The exhibit opened Sept. 8th with a lecture by Mark Scala, curator of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, a gallery viewing and reception followed.
“The show is going to challenge some people’s expectations of what abstract painting is,” Greene said. “Sometimes it’s intentionally crude. Some of it is beautiful, some of it is kind of strange.”
But as Crnkovich suggests, the viewer should “not fear the new or the different, but embrace it, contemplate it, converse with it, experience it.”