Alex Brown's Painting Abstraction
Stand well back from your screen and see what happens to the hybrid paintings by this New York-based artist
It can sometimes feel that modern art has become very diffuse, spread across so many new realms, from conceptual to performance, from video to site specific works. There's a sense that it has departed from its traditions in painting, from Picasso to Dali, Kandinsky to Matisse, and the bracing energies of the 20th century avant garde they represented. Bob Nickas's wonderful Painting Abstraction: New Elements In Abstract Painting scotches any such fears. It showcases 80 artists still operating within the “old-fashioned” media of the palette and canvas, yet devising myriad new strategies, finding new things to do and say.
In the chapter Hybrid Pictures we find the work of the artist Alex Brown, who explores the border between the abstract and the representational. Although painted, his pieces draw from photographic sources, the more anodyne the better – trade magazines, travel brochures, or record covers, which are then “filtered” in such a way as to exist in an almost hallucinatory zone between what is captured in a photograph and what can be conveyed on canvas.
Supermix (2004) is ostensibly a portrait of the reggae star Yellowman. However, although his outline is clear as he throws a shape for the camera, his face is blurred by what looks like pixellated disruption, the colouring of his shirt is a blue landscape, while his overall image exists somewhere between foreground and background, part of neither and both. In the way it plays with real and imaginary, physical and mental space, it offers far more food for thought than a photo could. It both extols the virtues of abstract art and gives the lie to the idea that the camera has made painting obsolete. It takes more time to make some pictures than it does to click a button.
To get another perspective on the pictures embedded in this story stand well back - in fact, as far as you can - from your screen and see what happens. Then please return to it and click this link to find out more about this great book.