Sunday, January 25, 2015

Kellyann Burns and Siri Berg: Two approaches to geometric abstraction

It is of course not news that there has always been great diversity within the arena of geometric abstraction. Informed by the work of Mondrian and Malevich, generations of painters and sculptors have worked with the vocabulary of geometric shapes to convey their ideas about spatial relationships and color, as well as notions of time and spirituality. While some artists within this tradition have chosen to remove evidence of the making (creating uninflected surfaces with hard-edged forms), others have partnered geometry with lush and more painterly approaches. Some artists developed pattern-based systems for developing their compositions, while others have relied on intuition in developing their ideas. The work ranges in scale from intimate to monumental and may present as cerebral or celebratory. Clearly, the universe of geometric abstraction  encompasses a wide range of expressive possibilities.

Two exhibits currently on view in Lower East Side galleries offer a glimpse of different approaches within the realm of geometric abstraction and make evident the limits of trying to define this tradition in simple terms. At the end of the post are links to additional resources about geometric abstraction.

KELLYANN BURNS     [McKenzie Fine Art through February 8] 
In an exhibit of approximately twenty paintings (completed in 2013-2014), Burns offers boldly hued, hard-edged abstraction imbued with complex history. She incorporates a variety of geometric forms into compositions with diverse spatial implications. The exhibit features several groupings of intimately sized paintings (10 x 8") as well as larger pieces (up to 60 x 60"). While each painting has been sanded to a smooth finish, its surface has richness and depth. Large areas of the surface are matte, while other areas are glossy. A close viewing often reveals underlayers that have been exposed by the repeated sanding. The edges of the paintings are uneven and rich with accumulated layers of paint, another way that Burns shares some of the history of the making.   Images courtesy McKenzie Fine Art.

KELLYANN BURNS   3:18 PM 9/22/14, 2014    Oil on alu-dibond    60 x 60"

KELLYANN BURNS   11:22 AM  5/22/13, 2013    Oil on alu-dibond    40 x 30"

KELLYANN BURNS   2:09 PM  2/14/14, 2014    Oil on alu-dibond    48 x 48"
KELLYANN BURNS   12:40 AM  9/18/14, 2014    Oil on alu-dibond    10 x 8"
KELLYANN BURNS   10:42 AM  9/16/14, 2014    Oil on alu-dibond    9 x 10"

KELLYANN BURNS   11:03 AM  9/01/14, 2014    Oil on alu-dibond    10 x 10"

SIRI BERG:  Color and Space    [Hionas Gallery through February 7]
Color and Space focuses on two series of Berg's paintings and works on paper from the 1970s and 1980s. Berg, who is now in her nineties, has long worked with themes and variations, selecting geometric forms and systematically engaging in extended explorations. This is geometric abstraction with an emphasis on symmetry along with variations in color. In developing a series, Berg produces numerous small works on paper, repeating and manipulating the formal compositions as she modifies the palette. In contrast with the paintings of Burns, Berg's compositions and her application of paint are minimalist, and quickly reveal their essence to the viewer.  

La Ronde, a series from the late 1960s through the 1970s, features semi-circles set into a square, sometimes singly but often in a sequence. The palette of the series ranges from muted to brightly colored. Kabbalah (1980s) is an exploration of the square with more subdued and subtle color variations. According to the gallery press release, Berg was working with elements of color, space and form to connect with the rule of ten (derived from the Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism).   Images courtesy Hionas Gallery.

SIRI BERG   La Ronde, 1971    Oil on paper    20 x 20"

SIRI BERG   La Ronde, 1972  Acrylic on Masonite    34 x 34"

SIRI BERG   La Ronde, 1972    Acrylic on masonite

SIRI BERG   Study for Kaballah, 11 x 8.5 inches, oil on paper

SIRI BERG   Study for Kaballah, 11 x 8.5 inches, oil on paper
SIRI BERG   Kaballah, 1982   oil on canvas    30 x 60"

For additional information on geometric abstraction:
Geoform is a website featuring paintings by several hundred contemporary artists as well as in depth interviews. 
The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History offers a brief overview of the genesis of geometric abstraction. 

Current and recent exhibits including geometric abstraction:
A Few Conversations about Color @ DM Contemporary CLICK HERE for catalog (up through February 28)
Ward Jackson: Black & White Diamonds @ Minus Space (September 2014)
Doppler Shift @ the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey   (September 2014 - January 2015)

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