Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Many Faces of Abstraction

This month, two exhibitions on Julia Street reflect the wide scope of Abstract art. The short walk from Octavia Art Gallery to Callan Contemporary represents decades of art history, bringing the visitors from expressionist to geometric abstract through the paintings of two artists: thirteen of Kikuo Saito's late works are on view at Octavia and Syn•tac•tic assembles fourteen of James Kennedy's most recent compositions.

At Octavia, it feels like a rush of colors when going through the entrance. An exuberant mixture of warm oranges, yellows, reds, moody greens or blues, covers the canvasses displayed along the walls. The late paintings of Kikuo Saito have the gestural quality of expressionism, with a twist. Ghostly stenciled letters can be found in the background while the oil paint is applied on top with vigorous brushstrokes, sometimes spread unevenly giving some texture to the canvas.  Saito was born in Japan and arrived in New York in the early 60's at a time when Joan Mitchell, a second generation abstract artist living in New York City moved to Paris. Her influence can be felt in paintings like Tilla, 2015 or Arabi, 2014, so is Helen Frankenthaler's, a Color Field abstract painter. Saito was her assistant for some time. What transpires through Saito's works is a love for life, conveyed through an explosion of colors.

At Callan Contemporary, the overall ambiance is more meditative with predominant blue and brown colors. Simple shapes and lines interact to create complex architectural landscapes patiently built through "dozen of layers of glaze-work and incised lines", providing perspective and depth. A connection to George Braque's works comes to mind due to the colors and also the woody or marbled effects of some areas. This is not a surprise as geometric abstract is born from Cubism according to the art historian Alfred Barr. It also reaches spiritual levels as described by Jorge Daniel Veneciano in his essay written for The Geometric Unconscious. James Kennedy's works meticulously composed bring serenity.

Octavia Art Gallery and Callan Contemporary allow the visitors to experience two different abstract languages, both making a lasting impression on the viewer.

photographs courtesy Octavia Art Gallery and Callan Contemporary
Kikuo Saito "Marimo", 2014.
James Kennedy "Salon Composition III", 2016.

No comments: