Female Artists at the Fore in Mitchell-Innes and Nash’s Art Basel Presentation

Artsy Editorial
Jun 11, 2014 4:07AM

A strong contingent of contemporary female artists from the Mitchell-Innes & Nash roster have  garnered much-deserved national and international recognition in recent months. Active in the 1970s and ’80s, through the present, these four artists are dynamic and diverse progenitors of abstract painting and sculptural assemblage, and together, they share the spotlight this month at Art Basel.

Jay DeFeo, Lotus Eater No. 1, 1974

Jay DeFeo’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum last year brought long overdue attention to her oeuvre, spanning Abstract Expressionism and funk, by way of painting, drawing, collage, jewelry, and still later, photography and photocopy. Lotus Eater No. 1 follows her seminal work The Rose (1958–66) and furthers her subtle explorations of abstraction and representation through a labored process of slow accumulation. Her carefully applied, thin acrylic strokes render the smoothly curved and tightly contained surface of an oversized bullet-shaped form, which floats surrealistically at the center of a Masonite ground, over-painted in white. In its execution, the simple figure—a hybrid dreamily derived from common domestic objects (a light bulb and candlestick telephone)—belies the languorous implication of its title, while demonstrating a compulsive devotion to the pleasure of representation.

Nancy Graves, Exclose, 1982

Paintings and sculpture by Nancy Graves are on view at Mitchell-Innes and Nash’s Madison Avenue location through the end of this month—the gallery’s inaugural exhibition of Graves, whose estate the gallery now represents. In the early 1970s, Graves began making detailed gouache works on paper, of animal life and other patterns of nature, taking a colorful scientific approach to representation. In the 1980s, her work grew more abstract in its depiction of energetic forms and processes, while maintaining a brightly hued palette. The ovoid composition at the center of the large, dark canvas of Exclose is defined by pink (almost fluorescent) rays that also cut diagonally across and directly through its circumscribed enclosure; a diagram that might imply inward compression from the encircling soup of mitochondrial forms, outward expansion from a thin and greenly veined core, or perhaps capture the simultaneous effect of both forces exerted at once.

Keltie Ferris, Perfect Fifth, 2014

The recipient of a 2014 award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ferris was recently the subject of a solo exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, titled “Doomsday Boogie.” Her language of abstraction draws from moody science fiction scenarios and the aesthetics of video game animation; a hand-painted geometric ground might simulate a bird’s eye view of a darkened cityscape, often rendered in dark oils and pastels, complete with pixilated interface. The crater-like composition forming the base layer of her smaller-scale canvas, Perfect Fifth, expressed in paler tones, calls to mind both the eye of a storm (in the style of Doppler weather radar) and an interstellar cloud of dust and gas on the verge of gravitational collapse. Her signature graffiti-like markings, often bright flashes of neon, are here executed in quick, curved black outlines that penetrate through faux pixels, atop a bare canvas surface.

Virginia Overton, Untitled, 2014

Sculptor Virginia Overton was granted the second commission in Storm King Art Center’s new “Outlooks” series of site-specific installations; her 400-foot-long brass sculpture, undulating over the parkland’s organic curvature, is on view through November—and her work also features in “FlatRock,” a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, through July. Repurposing obsolete materials and ordinary objects, Overton’s spare post-Minimal configurations emphasize weight, gravity, and suspension. The wall-mounted, loosely slung steel and brass tubes of Untitled, secured by thin blue rope, frame the artist’s ongoing engagement with environmental context at the more modest scale of a room.

Visit Mitchell-Innes & Nash at Art Basel 2014, Galleries, Booth E6, June 19th–22nd, 2014.

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Artsy Editorial