Bringing together the work of six intergenerational artists working across media, Body | Image examines the pre-reflective appearance of the corporeal in works of contemporary abstraction. Merleau-Ponty was the first to propose that one could not consider perception without considering the body as mediator of experience. On a conscious or subconscious level this interface is fundamental to the reception and perception of our world. The existence of the body in Art of the abstract/conceptual nature shown here, though surprising should not be unexpected.
The appearance of the corporeal in each of these artists’ work ranges from the literal to the implied to the implicated. On one end of the spectrum, we find figures pushing forward from the book pages of Erica Baum’s (b. 1961) “Naked Eye” series confounding her “unmanipulated route to abstraction” or the spectre of the disembodied figure coalescing from the boldly abstract clash of color and shape in Ellen Berkenblit’s (b. 1958) “Berkeley Mews”. At the other end, we have the work of Anna Betbeze (b. 1980), Emily Clayton (b. 1982) and Meredyth Sparks (b. 1972). Here the existence of the body is equally powerful even as its presence is intuited. The human image is conjured in many subtle ways, be it scale, physicality, color, aura. Agnes Martin consciously elected to work on a 6’ square to mirror and draw in the viewer. The Abstract Expressionists suggested the human presence through sweeping, performative gesture. Each of these artists have absorbed and are fully cognizant of the subtle means that serve to implicate the viewer in the work. Consider Maren Hassinger’s (b. 1947) immersive newspaper environment. Simple in its construction, complex in its effect – lining the enclosed space with thousands of long strands of twisted newspaper she transforms the white box into a deeply personal, psychic and physical experience.
The difficulty of a pure, objective rendering is evident; knowledge and understanding being tempered by personal experience and personal experience being mediated by the physical body. The so-called non-objective is necessarily peppered with memory and a human presence that complicates and enriches. It is no wonder that we find our self reflected at every turn, even where we least expect it.