Abstract Figuration in Print & Craft
Found between both our Zane Bennett Contemporary Art print collection and our form & concept contemporary craft collection is the exploration of abstract figuration by artists that often recall past artistic movements in their practices.
For instance, Martin Etem’s The Choir references the abstracted faces found across the West African masks that influenced the development of Cubism. Derrick Adams’s Style Variation 4 (Beard) references the same 20th century movement with his portrait of a man built with blocks of color and texture. Through their references, these two contemporary Black artists celebrate art historical aesthetics while questioning the legacy of white artists who appropriated African techniques deemed “primitive.”
Brooklyn-based Danielle Orchard also reflects on Cubism and Surrealism with her lithograph Smile More. Blending 20th century aesthetics with the 21st century female experience, the bold composition depicts a woman’s moody response to the hackneyed suggestion that she should “should smile more.” Orchard’s clear reference to Picasso’s geometric figures finds connection with form & concept’s Armond Lara, who built maquettes referencing significant figures throughout history. His sculpture As Man Ray mimics the great artist’s influence on Dadaism and Surrealism by assembling an uncanny, mismatched sculpture of various shapes and industrial parts alongside a mask of Man Ray’s face.
Armond Lara, As Man Ray, 2013, form & concept
Lastly, fiber artist and just-announced Mellon LatinX Fellowship recipient Rosemary Meza-DesPlas and Turner-prize winning Chris Ofili both insert figures in unknown whereabouts forged from multiple mediums. Meza-DesPlas’s Somewhere Between the Beauty and the Buzz features a traditional watercolor portrait with a mysterious abstracted mass sprouting from her head, alongside hand-sewn human hair. Ofili’s squiggly figure is found encased by a waterfall of minimalist drypoint line drawings paired with expressionist colors.
Rosemary Meza-DesPlas, Somewhere Between the Beauty and the Buzz, 2017, form & concept
As figuration comes back to the fore, it is interesting to see several generations of artists grapple with the human experience, art historical traditions, and new mediums through the lens of abstraction.