Re-Examining Abstract Art, Part 2
Sept. 18- January 31, 2004
Ernest Briggs, Nassos Daphnis, Buffie Johnson, Ibram Lassaw (sculpture), Jeanne Miles, Richards Ruben, William Saroyan
Anita Shapolsky Gallery presents “Re-examining Abstract Art II” as the second part of an exhibition of abstract artists and their pioneering works. Instead of presuming art as a delineated space, the artists in this show forge images through their nomadic and ongoing imagination. The works are a counterpoint to calculative and measured abstract art without spirit or possibilities. The artists push through many locations to step around historical contexts and comment on their own frames. They challenge inertia through compulsive, recurring, and transformative works.
Ernest Briggs’ volcanic abstract paintings from the 1950s place him firmly in the ranks of the New York avant-garde. Until his death in 1984, Briggs continuously explored new ways of combining and changing compositional arrangements and painterly strategies. His canvas is powerful, interpreting nature as a cataclysmic force. Briggs studied with Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt and Clifford Still in San Francisco during the early 1950s. Briggs developed a rugged aesthetic. His works are fiery explosions of paint erupting on canvas as if by a force all their own.
Nassos Daphnis’ biomorphic paintings are drenched in color and tinted infusions, evidencing his other career in botany. Each canvas is a mathematical study of symmetrical images and contradicting lines. In the 1950s the drawings are predominantly geometric and abstract while later paintings add intuitive and relational elements. The artist consistently displays primary colors, arc shapes, and an unflinching abstraction.
Buffie Johnson is a painter of primal and striated folds that makes a conscious altering canvas. Her work balances tense affects and concrete differences in floating orbs, contrary colors, and interjected lines. Pushing the edge of the painterly bounds, Johnson makes a canvas into cosmic worlds of zeniths and holes. As a pioneer of transcendental abstraction, she clairvoyantly pictures astral and porous images.
Ibram Lassaw is an edgy and innovative sculptor whose deft designs open whole spaces into organic systems. Lisa Phillips in Space Explorations, A Retrospective Survey, 1929-1988 says, "Lassaw's deep identification with space has a metaphysical as well as physical dimension. He believes that the artist is an extension of nature, creating irregular yet purposeful forms and that the genesis of art has a cosmological connection." Taking everyday materials into uncontained sites, the artist displays the "truth of materials" in constructing sculptures of process and change.
Jeanne Miles was a follower of theosophy who called herself a purist but not simply geometric and abstract. Her work includes mystic and arcane allusions that make a symbol come alive. Intercepting lines and criss-crossing shapes juxtapose to make images full of spiritism and laughter. Miles says: “Circles, squares, and triangles…the even-armed cross has many connotations—the crossroads, the four elements, and the joining of heaven and earth.” Caught within this indeterminate juncture, we contemplate her purist and simplified forms, sometimes complicated by gold or platinum.
Richards Ruben who died July 1998, painted in a sculptural way. He drew with his stretcher bars, covering them and shaping the canvas to reflect his interest in how the inner rhythms of the image corresponds with the outer image of the canvas as well as the canvas interaction with the wall. His imagery suggests collections of moments in the passage of time and is filled with vitality and are symbolically suggestive.
William Saroyan is better known as an Armenian-American beat writer but is also an under known abstract painter. His pictures play off the written word to show drawn movement. Stressing the overlap of visual and textual, he says, “The drawings and paintings were part of my writing part of my finding out about writing and about how I would live my life and write my writing.” His work shows influences of calligraphy, the telegraph, radiogram, and Chinese brush stroke, exhibiting the same roaming force that caused his writing to win a Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award.