The FLAG Art Foundation’s joint exhibition of works by Etel Adnan and Gerhard Richter promises a unique perspective towards rarely-seen works by two of the most prolific artists working today. Both celebrated for their distinct renderings of abstraction and color spectrum, Adnan and Richter have pursued disparate trajectories that mark them today as pioneers in nonfigurative art. Yet certain graphical and technical similarities between the two make for a striking exhibition, consolidating the two artists’ work through tapestry, a path for which both painters diverged from their canvas-based practices to experiment with visual extents of the traditional craft method.
Adnan first came into global recognition only in recent years, during the later stages of her career, despite an oeuvre that spans poetry, philosophy, and painting. The Lebanese-American artist’s brightly-colored landscapes delve into essence of sceneries where she finds inspiration, primarily hills of France and California where she divides her time. Stripped from amplified depictions of her surrounding, her paintings rely on single portions of color, orchestrated altogether on small scales to orchestrate otherworldly landscapes. Blending the joyousness of brisk colors and reflections of nature’s most startling tones with resolute loyalty for uncluttered juxtapositions, Adnan contemplates on possibilities of serenity and introspection in today’s hectic visual landscapes.
While tapestry may seem to be an unforeseen direction for these two artists, FLAG’s meticulously arranged installation connects the subtleties that constitute their works. Created in collaboration with Atelier Pinton Aubusson in France, two tapestries Adnan debuts in New York echo with her vibrant painting fashion, containing the vibrancy and geometry of landscapes, and elevated by the volume and tactility of tapestry medium. Richer’s Musa and Yusuf tapestries, by contrast adopt his 1990 work Abstract Painting (72-4) as a base, each using a quadrant of his source material in unconventional ways. Zoomed in, flipped, and multiplied, the mechanically woven tapestry versions of the painting both recall and challenge Richter’s signature painting technique with their pixelated and wreathed surfaces.
German painter Gerhard Richer on the other hand has enjoyed an ever-rising critical and commercial recognition since the ‘60s with his subtly political, stylistically unified output of abstract paintings that merge the hazy auras of archival material with bold hues and thick layers of paint, or deconstruct the logic of the canvas itself. Reminiscent of fading memories or dreamlike hallucinations of the subconsciousness, Richter’s paintings hold their fingers on the pulse of post-World War II Germany, grasping the traumas of war with tempestuous brushstrokes and scraper marks. Here, his tapestry works are included as well, juxtaposing his practice with the printed tapestries he made from several of his past paintings.
The combination of sources and interests here makes a particular impact on the viewer, particularly in consideration of the shared material results and their vastly divergent technical and graphic impressions. Both masters of their craft, the show at FLAG offers a fascinating look at what happens when brilliant artists dare to play among new forms, and new rules.
Etel Adnan & Gerhard Richter is on view at FLAG Art Foundation through May 13, 2017.
— O.C. Yerebakan
FLAG Art Foundation [Exhibition Page]