On view in BCAM, Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting features 29 artists whose work investigates the possibilities and vocabulary of abstraction. The works interpret abstraction from a range of media, from painting on canvas to sculpture expressed in lipstick wax. The exhibition aims to present the diversity in the way abstraction is applied by artists in their art: not limited just to canvases that outline the undefined, but renderings that also hint at representation.
Mark Bradford, Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, 2002, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Modern and Contemporary Art Council, 2002 Art Here and Now Purchase, © Mark Bradford
Throughout the 20th century, the use of abstraction as a theme, style, and mode of working has undergone cycles of favor and relevance among artists, critics, and gallerists. Most recently, abstraction has dominated painting, viable with critics and urged on by the marketplace. What often goes unremarked upon in these transactions and in recent criticism (or publicity) are the merits and intellectual weight of contemporary art in an abstract language. Within the broad term “abstract” there are many variations, and abstraction can be a powerful means of exploring issues as varied as authorship, technology, conceptualism, and the nature of materials.
Mark Bradford, Shoot the Coin, 2013, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with major funding provided by Andy Valmorbida, with additional support from Sotheby’s, © Mark Bradford, photo by Ben Westoby, courtesy White Cube
Based primarily on works from LACMA’s growing collection of contemporary art, Variations offers a way to examine a mode of working that continues to flourish today, despite its falling in and out of favor in the eyes of critics. This was not the case just a few years ago, and it may not be next year, but in the here and now, abstraction is worthy of sustained consideration.
Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (White Butterfly Red Big Nose Baby Moose), 2005, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by the Modern and Contemporary Art Council and the Contemporary Art Acquisitions Fund, © Mark Grotjahn
Among the works presented in Variations, the most prevalent aspect is the push-and-pull between abstraction and representation. A distinct and pervasive engagement with the space between those poles suggests that at the beginning of the 21st century, there may no longer be such a thing as pure abstraction.
Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Solid French Grey Butterfly 70% 672), 2007, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Sheridan Brown, © Mark Grotjahn
Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Two Noses Out of the Shell Standing Flat SF1.a), 2013, loan and promised gift of Steven F. Roth, © Mark Grotjahn, photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
Rashid Johnson, Four for the Talking Cure, 2009–12, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Contemporary Friends, 2013, with additional funds from Holly and Albert Baril, Allison and Larry Berg, Viveca Paulin-Ferrell and Will Ferrell, Linda nad Paul Gostkind, Jennifer Hawks and Ramin Djawadi, Laura and James Maslon, Phil Mercado and Todd Quinn, Candance and Charles Nelson, and the Kerry and Simone Vickar Foundation, © Rashid Johnson, courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, photography by Nathan Keay, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Jennie C. Jones, End Measure, 2011, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Contemporary Friends, 2012, © Jennie C. Jones
Rachel Lachowicz, Untitled (Lipstick Urinals), 1992, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Modern and Contemporary Art Council, 1995 Art Here and Now Purchase, © Rachel Lachowicz
Albert Oehlen, Computer Painting, 1998, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Margo Leavin, © 2014 Albert Oehlen
Gerhard Richter, St. Andrew, 1988, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Modern and Contemporary Art Council Fund, © Gerhard Richter 2014
Analia Saban, Erosion (Geometric Cubes within Circle: Two-Point Perspective with Guidelines), 2012, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Jennifer Hawks and Ramin Djawadi, and Candice and Charles Nelson, © Analia Saban
Amy Sillman, Untitled (Purple Bottle), 2013, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Contemporary Friends, 2013, © Amy Sillman, photo courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery, London
Mary Weatherford, love forever (cave) for MW, 2012, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, promised gift of Ann Colgin and Joe Wender