Abstraction Study Day – Part 1: Introduction

Abstraction Study Day – Part 2: Paul Wood

Paul Wood

This paper will offer a concise introduction to the modernist conception of an abstract art. With partial reference to the OU course Art of the Twentieth Century, it will discuss the ideas of Kandinsky, Barr and Greenberg, and challenges to such views in the 1920s and 1960s. It will further attempt to situate this constellation of ideas in the context of a wider range of non-representational art traditions.

Paul Wood is Senior Lecturer in the Deptartment of Art History at the Open University. Publications include the three volumes of Art in Theory, co-edited with Charles Harrison and Jason Gaiger, and Conceptual Art in Tate Publishing’s Movements in Modern Art series. His current research interests are centred on the field of world art history.

Abstraction Study Day – Part 3: Jason Gaiger

Jason Gaiger Difficult in Practice: Modernist Theory and Fully Abstract Painting

This paper examines modernist theories of abstract painting with the aim of revealing both their explanatory force and their potential limitations and exclusions. Particular emphasis is placed on the relation between the concept of decoration and the concept of depiction and the way in which this relation bears on the possible meanings that can be attributed to the early twentieth-century project of developing a fully abstract visual art.

Jason Gaiger is a Senior Lecturer in Art History at The Open University. His principal area of research is aesthetics and the theory of art from the mid-seventeenth century through to the present day, with a special emphasis on theories of depiction and visual meaning. His books include Aesthetics and Painting (Continuum, 2008), an English edition of Herder’s Sculpture (University of Chicago Press, 2002) and, as co-editor, Art in Theory: 1648–1815 (Blackwell, 2000) and Art in Theory: 1815–1900 (Blackwell, 1998).

Abstraction Study Day – Part 4: Michael White

Abstraction Study Day – Part 5: Briony Fer

Briony Fer Abstraction: what’s left

This is a talk about double agents and double lines, about didacticism and betrayal. If it sounds melodramatic, then maybe it was. Yet the famous falling out between Mondrian and Van Doesburg over the diagonal was symptomatic not only of the contested field of geometric abstraction in general but of the specifics of the system in particular. Briony Fer explores how far getting it wrong might mean ultimately getting it right, focusing not on the diagonal as such but rather on Mondrian’s introduction of the double line in 1932 and the repercussions of that radical move for Mondrian’s subsequent work in New York. In the final analysis, Fer asks whether it matters and what is left of the great avant-garde project of abstraction today.

Briony Fer has written widely on twentieth century and recent art. Her book On Abstract Art was published in 1997, and most recently her book Eva Hesse: Studiowork 2009 was published to accompany the show of the same name that is about to open at the Tapies Foundation in Barcelona. She is Professor of History of Art at UCL.

Abstraction Study Day – Part 6: Panel discussion

Abstraction Study Day – Part 7: Matthew Gale

Matthew Gale Arshile Gorky: A World Equal to Nature 

Matthew Gale is Curator (Modern Art) and Head of Displays at Tate Modern. He has curated a number of major exhibitions at Tate Modern including, in the last five years: Beyond Painting: Burri, Fontana, Manzoni 2005 and Dalí & Film 2007. He was co-curator, with Chris Stephens, of Francis Bacon at Tate Britain (2008), and the Tate curator on Futurism 2009 and now Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective.

Abstraction Study Day – Part 8: David Batchelor

David Batchelor Another Day, Another Monochrome

The monochrome has been regarded as the highest form of abstract art, and as the dumbest kind of painting it is possible to make. For some the monochrome entails a renunciation of the material world and of everyday life in the pursuit of pure feeling, for others a monochrome is what happens every time you paint a door. David Batchelor will discuss the curious ambiguities of the monochrome, and its presence in his own work of the last 15 years. David Batchelor is an artist and writer based in London. His work comprises three-dimensional structures, photographs and drawings, and mostly relates to a long term interest in colour and urbanism. He has exhibited widely in the UK, continental Europe, the Americas and, more recently, Asia. He has also written widely on contemporary art and is the author of two books on colour, Chromophobia (Reaktion: 2000) and Colour (ed. Whitechapel/MIT: 2008).

Abstraction Study Day – Part 9: Amna Malik

Amna Malik on Abstract dis-connections, ruptures and transformations: Nasreen Mohamedi and the question of context.

What happens to the language of abstract art in the work of artists or aesthetic practices that migrate from the Indian subcontinent to Europe and back again? Specifically how might one examine the work of Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi in a way that acknowledges her interest in an ‘international avant-garde’ implicitly centred on a European narrative but also acknowledges the complex and long-standing artistic traditions in the Indian subcontinent that are a legacy of partition? Amna Malik has published a number of articles examining contemporary art practice from the perspective of diaspora. She is currently researching two book projects: Migratory Aesthetics examines the movement of artistic practices in the work of diaspora artists who have disappeared from mainstream narratives of art history; Proximity is a re-appraisal of aesthetics and politics in recent art practice.

Abstraction Study Day – Part 10: Jaime Gili

Jaime Gili  on Tropical modern. On being late, but in the right place. (A different kind of failure).

Carlos Raúl Villanueva, the architect of modern Venezuela, said once to calm the rural context he was working on, that ‘people would eventually catch up’ with the advances of architecture and art he was promoting. He brought to Venezuela major international artists to integrate their works into his architecture, and started a local tradition that lasts until today. Gió Ponti, also working in Caracas in the 1950s, said once that modernism can flourish better in the tropics, because architecture can be simply a wing under which to live, not anymore a bunker against the weather. Jaime Gili will illustrate in 20 minutes a special trip to a different kind of modernism, an essay on integration of the arts, and why the dream should still be alive for some. Jaime Gili is a London-based visual artist born in Caracas from Catalan parents. Gili received his MA in painting from the Royal College of Art in 1998 and a PhD at the University of Barcelona in 2001. He has shown work internationally in many exhibitions including COMMA at Bloomberg Space (London), 6 Bienal do Mercosul (Porto Alegre), Expander at the Royal Academy (London), Jump Cuts at CIFO (Miami), and Bill at Pittier at Kunsthalle Winterthur. His work has been contextualised as continuing a tradition of Latin American abstract art, especially the Venezuelan optical and kinetic legacy, with an input from popular art and London’s energy. Amongst other public art commissions he has worked on recently, he won an international competition for one of the world’s largest paintings, and the first to be thought for satellite view. The tops and sides of 16 large oil tanks along the Fore River in South Portland, Maine will be painted with his site-specific design.

Abstraction Study Day – Part 11: Panel discussion

On the occasion of two major exhibitions of abstract art, Van Doesburg and the International Avant-Garde: Constructing a New World and Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, this study day considers some of the broad issues and ideas associated with the concept of ‘abstraction’. It examines how abstract art is open to some radically different forms of interpretation, including theories rooted in both idealist and materialist ideas. Speakers reference the work of Van Doesburg and Arshile Gorky but also explore a range of artistic practices from the 1920s to the present day that we now loosely label ‘abstract’ art. The day also includes contributions from contemporary artists whose practices include explorations of abstraction in different media.

Speakers include Paul Wood, Jason Gaiger, Briony Fer, Amna Malik, Jaime Gili, Michael White and Matthew Gale.This study day is dedicated to the memory of Professor Charles Harrison, Emeritus Professor of the History and Theory of Art at The Open University.

This event follows on from Abstract Connections, a one-day symposium on Friday 26 March.

In collaboration with The Open University