Approaching an abstract painting or a collection of contemporary abstract artwork can be an emotional and intellectual challenge. Complexities of the artist’s mind lie in every hue and viewer uncovers sagas of meaning in each line and curve. Losing My Edge: New Perspectives in Abstract Figurative Painting, an exhibit curated by Montevallo professor Michael Willett, examines the new trajectory and communicative potential of current abstract works by U.S. artists and is on display at the Bloch Hall Gallery in Montevallo through Feb. 4.
“I’m interested in the derivative nature of abstraction and how worldwide access to digital imagery and information (such as art history) has affected the vocabulary of abstraction,” Willett said. “Essentially, Google has allowed the work of Rembrandt or Braque to be equally as accessible as that of Stella or Hockney. As a result, I find that contemporary methods for abstraction are often just as expansive as they are reductive, and that once clear line between representation and abstraction is now often blurred.”
The paintings in the exhibition include works by Launa Bacon from Nebraska, Eric Cagley from Tennessee, Elizabeth Kauffman from Maryland, Chase Melendez from Ohio, Leslie Smith III from Wisconsin, Michael Stillion from Ohio and Birmingham’s own Merrilee Challiss and Amy Pleasant.
“Rather than including work that incorporates mixed media or technology, I specifically chose to focus on painting as defined by: paint and application, in conversation with form and content,” Willett said. “The ultimate objective is to demonstrate a spectrum of processes that both embraces and challenges painting’s historical baggage.”
The pieces range from the most abstract, like Cagley and Smith’s, to the more literal, like Challiss and Bacon’s pieces.
“I use the plasticity of acrylic paint, the structure of the generic grid and appropriation, as a way to fracture a memory within my own life,” said Cagley. “I hope to elevate that memory and immortalize it through painting while subverting historical icons to the whims of the impulsive residue from my childhood.”
“My paintings picture my mind’s tableaux of imagined realms, abstracted from reality and real forms,” said Challiss. “I locate myself and my role as artist, in a meditative state, in the liminal realm between elegy and celebration, where the spirit and the unconscious trump our waking reality.”
While many ideas concerning abstract art rival, Willett’s curatorial efforts reveal that visual art is ever evolving and sometimes exceeds definition.
The Bloch Hall Gallery is located at Station 4600, University of Montevallo and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit montevallo.edu.