Inherent Structure debuts at the Wexner Center for the Arts

Fri, Mar 16, 2018

16 artists expand on the language and meaning of abstraction

Historically, abstract painting has been associated with chance gesture, impulse, and aesthetic purity. With Inherent Structure, Michael Goodson, Senior Curator of Exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University, brings together 16 contemporary artists whose works reflect not just formal conventions exclusive to painting, but also the artists’ particular material, psychological, and sociopolitical concerns. The exhibition, on view at the multidisciplinary art space May 19–August 12, 2018, will fill the gallery spaces with more than 60 artworks created over five decades.

Among the exhibiting artists are Laura Owens and Richard Aldrich, an Ohio State alum and former Wex staff member. In their respective works, there is a confrontation between formal conventions of painting and expressions of self-reflection. For Aldrich it’s between mark-making and psychological operations; for Owens, it’s teasing irony and humor out of the processes of making and displaying art. Cut from the walls of a previous exhibition at the Wattis Institute, Owens’s series of custom wallpaper on panels contains phone numbers to which viewers can text questions to receive audio responses of text-to-speech quips and found recordings.

Thomas Scheibitz and Amy Sillman interrogate abstraction’s faculty to depict physical space that objects and figures, real or uncanny, might inhabit. Challenging the traditional form and, with that, the definition of painting, Sam Gilliam forgoes the practice of stretching his canvases, instead allowing them to drape, and Angel Otero builds works from skins of dried paint and shreds of canvas.

Comics, band fliers, decorative prints, and other forms of popular visual culture inform the ‘zine-like nature of the works by Arturo Herrera and the bespoke patterned paintings by Ruth Root, as well as the riotous, colorful canvases by Carrie Moyer, a cofounder of the agitprop art project Dyke Action Machine!, and the allover printed works by Rebecca Morris, author of “Manifesto: for Abstractionists and Friends of the Non-Objective.”

Pulling from source materials imbued with personal narratives, Eric N. Mack fashions his compositions from worn or discarded textiles, Sam Moyer combines stone countertops extracted from their domestic settings with delicately painted canvases, and Kevin Beasley drenches housedresses, t-shirts, and du-rags from a discount store near his studio in Harlem in resin to shape gestural, even painterly, slabs.

Abstraction is uniquely autobiographical for Channing Hansen, who composes vibrant knitted paintings determined entirely by an algorithm built from his DNA sequencing, and Zachary Armstrong, who will create a site-specific installation for Inherent Structure by covering the lower lobby wall in an allover print based on his brother’s childhood drawing.

In contrast, Stanley Whitney has spent his venerable career pursuing the formal structures of abstraction and the sheer force of color. The resulting paintings allure viewers with their dynamic optical effects.

Less an exhaustive survey of contemporary abstract painting than a bringing together of extraordinary works by exceptional artists, Inherent Structure encourages viewers to meditate on the underlying sources and influences of abstraction by providing varied and multiple manifestations of it. In doing so, it affirms abstraction as vital, expressive, and unending.

Participating Artists
Richard Aldrich, Zachary Armstrong, Kevin Beasley, Sam Gilliam, Channing Hansen, Arturo Herrera, Eric N. Mack, Rebecca Morris, Carrie Moyer, Sam Moyer, Angel Otero, Laura Owens, Ruth Root, Thomas Scheibitz, Amy Sillman, Stanley Whitney

Exhibition-Related Events
The exhibition launches with a free Spring Exhibition Preview on Friday, May 18 from 5 to 8:30 PM. The event will feature open galleries and a public discussion at 5:30 PM with Inherent Structureartists Laura Owens, Rebecca Morris, and Ruth Root, moderated by Ohio State Department of Art Associate Professor George Rush. A reception follows with complimentary snacks, a cash bar, and a set by DJ Citizen Dorian S.

Image caption: Rebecca Morris, Untitled (#07–16), 2016
Oil on canvas, 85 x 101 in.
Courtesy of the artist, Corbett vs. Dempsey, and Barbara Weiss, Berlin
Photo: Lee Thompson

Detail from Untitled (#07–16) by Rebecca Morris