SPECIFIC ABSTRACTIONS at Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles


Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles

JUNE 15 – JULY 20, 2019

Charlie James Gallery presents Specific Abstractions, a group exhibition curated by Los Angeles-based arts writer Matt Stromberg featuring work by Tanya Aguiñiga, Rachid Bouhamidi, Leonardo Bravo, Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia, John Knuth, Dan Levenson, Rubén Ortiz Torres, and Brenna Youngblood. The show challenges the understanding of abstraction as a universal language, a “pure” exploration of form, color, and material. This premise was informed by the Guggenheim Museum show Josef Albers in Mexico which traces the connection between the modernist master’s geometric abstractions and his love of pre-Columbian art and architecture that he encountered while traveling throughout Mexico. “The Homage to the Square paintings are sometimes caricatured as the epitome of detached, cerebral art, a manifestation of a singular faith in geometry. Yet the works have also been connected to specific locations in Mexico,” writes curator Lauren Hinkson in her catalogue essay, arguing that they stem from Albers’s paintings of Mexican house facades. Specific Abstractions brings together eight contemporary artists who work in abstract and geometric modes, but whose paintings, textiles, and sculptures draw on a wide range of influences and references, representing a heterogeneous, tangled, and often witty rejoinder to the notion of abstraction’s aloof objectivity. Some of these artists like Tanya Aguiñiga, Leonardo Bravo, and Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia draw on traditional Latin American artforms and techniques, fusing them with strains of modernism and popular culture. Similarly, Rachid Bouhamidi incorporates Moroccan design motifs and imagery in his paintings, prints, and installations which serve as sites for tea ceremonies. Other artists like John Knuth, Dan Levenson, and Rubén Ortiz Torres interrogate the history of abstraction, contesting the genre’s associations with timelessness or spirituality. Brenna Youngblood offers a refutation of abstraction’s discreet purity, with hybrid objects that are unmistakably of this world.

Leonardo Bravo, Olmeca 4, acrylic on birch panel, 16 x 16 inches, 2019

Matt Stromberg is a freelance arts writer based in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles (CARLA), the Guardian, Hyperallergic, Artnet, KCET Artbound, Artsy, Frieze, Terremoto, and Daily Serving