Pulling Painting From its “Living Death” at RH Contemporary

Abstract painting, says the Dutch artist Bas van den Hurk, is in the throes of a kind of “living death.” Its processes have been repeated and reworked for more than a century, yet still it possesses unique potential. Van den Hurk, along with the three other mid- and early-career artists currently showing at RH Contemporary’s multilevel space, is mining that history to create abstract works for the 21st century—and if they aren’t exactly all paintings, they’re certainly painterly.

Van den Hurk’s work takes equal cues from the whimsy of Pop Art and the single-mindedness of minimalism, combining textile work with silkscreen printing and oil paints to make wet, gem-toned mixed-media works; prints like Softer Than Satin Was the Night (2014) superimpose constellations of geometric shapes onto shimmering textiles, giving his work a precious and secretive sheen. Van den Hurk’s canvases are joined, upstairs, by those of Gijs van Lith, a young and meticulously process-oriented artist who has painted and buffed his eight canvases countless times; the faint outlines of their former states are still just visible under the surface.

Other artists transcend canvas to create abstractions of a different variety: in RH’s basement screening room, the Istanbul-born Refik Anadol has created a dark and glittering dungeon where mirrors refract the multimedia artist’s bold and rippling geologically inspired shapes. Known best for creating building-sized architectural projections that transform cities into undulating, algorithmic waves of light, now Anadol has cast videos on top of his prints—as in Sedimental-Hybrid-C (2014)—and paired them with angular 3D-printed sculptures from the same mould.

The dark, harsh lines of Anadol’s series find parallels in the work of Jason Gringler, a young artist whose time in New York has led him to mimic the brutal lines and cold architectures of the postindustrial city to great effect. Gringler’s work has always been hyper-physical; the restless artist is known to keep a punching bag in his studio for when he becomes frustrated by a piece. For this show, “Dark Windows,” Gringler has fabricated a series of bold four-layer collages. In Collage 12 (Plexi Version) (2010), unexpected fragments of light fade into jagged gashes of fractured glass and paint, each its own window of epoxy or enamel; in Black Mass (Second Version) (2012) dim tones and frosty layers recall stained-glass windows retooled for a contemporary Gotham City.

—Molly Osberg

Refik Anadol, Jason Gringler, Bas van den Hurk, Gijs van Lith” is on view at RH Contemporary, New York, Sept. 19th–Dec. 6th, 2014. 

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