Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Announcing Material Abstraction: Bob Oppenheim, Carter Potter, Ulrich Wellmann, and Brian Zink

Colored thread, plexiglass, polyester film spacers - material reigns. Abstraction is an aspiration for the essential. At the height of Modernism, artists obsessed over how to make a painting that escalated paint to its most essential and most elemental state. Today, we bring together four artists: Bob Oppenheim, Carter Potter, Ulrich Wellmann and Brian Zink all seek new materials as the vehicle and the subject. The materials are simple, ranging from the indexical to the pristine. Each responds to its environment, reflecting or absorbing light, revealing or concealing process. The works surrender to these qualities, and the result is an aesthetic of  honest abstraction - in which a relentless physicality grounds the aspirations of traditional abstraction, marrying the physical and the ephemeral.

The artists enter into a dialogue with the material. Bob Oppenheim engages the physicality of canvas through the indexical gesture of sewing. Along his canvases, trails of thread weave - notes of a singular melody. The result is romantic and raw, as the visitor comes face to face with the tender relationship between the artist and his materials.

Carter Potter stretches filmstrips over wood frames, replacing the traditional canvas with a remnant of another medium. The images within each frame are the most representational work in the show, yet the abstraction in their repetition is as deeply geometric as Brian Zink's plexiglass patterns. The wall behind the piece is a material in itself, glowing gently through the filmstrips to illuminate the structure of the stretcher.

Ulrich Wellmann introduces paint as a material. Up against the soft white of the plexiglass, the oil hovers. Turns of the wrist highlight brushstrokes that float together like a cloud. The edges of the paint are important - a defined arbitrary border beyond which the plexiglass reigns. Along that border a shadow forms. A quiet chameleon, the soft white plexiglass frames and cradles the wild strokes.

Brian Zink's paintings are made of plexiglass. Patterns in a palette restricted by commercial production are fitted together with mechanical precision for a fetish finish that seems to hold secrets. Viewers are tempted to lean in, glimpse the work from a new perspective. One's own sharp reflection changes with the color of the panel, staring back at you. The reflections, inherent to the material, allow the tight compositions to breathe. A space opens up within them and one walks right into the world of pure color and pattern. 

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