My contribution to the May issue of The Brooklyn Rail is a review of the New Museum’s Tomma Abts show. “For Abts, honesty and sincerity are guiding principles. In a conversation with Peter Doig reprinted in the museum’s exhibition brochure, she unabashedly admits that her process is intuitive, and that she can’t explain why or how she makes decisions as she paints. In an age of hyper-ideation and inflated art rhetoric, in which ideas may be valued more than emotional insight or intuition, Abts’ ingenuous simplicity, like that of Chauncey Gardner in ‘Being There,’ is refreshing. From the beginning, she says candidly, her process is directed towards completing the painting. ‘I know once a painting is finished, but I never know how to get there.’ For Abts, painting is about harnessing her own unconscious, rather than giving visual substance to an external idea or conceptual conceit.
“As to paint handling, Abts says that she ‘tries to define the forms precisely.’ In keeping with the implied desire to cut off over-interpretation, and evoking minimalism, she adds that ‘the forms don’t stand for anything else, they don’t symbolize anything or describe anything outside the painting. They represent themselves.’ For the most part, the paintings, all vertically oriented, are spaced evenly around the gallery, and hung at a standard height. Curator Laura Hoptman, to her credit, makes no attempt to force the paintings into a more fashionable context with any sort of coy installation strategy. The curator thus appears to be signaling to the viewer that these paintings, small and traditional though they appear, are discrete entities that can, indeed, speak for themselves…..” Read more.
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