White Cube Bermondsey presents ‘Tightrope Walk: Painted Images after Abstraction’, a group exhibition, curated by Barry Schwabsky. The exhibition brings together almost 70 paintings by some 40 artists, showing how the act of making a representational painting has been redefined over the past century, following the emergence of abstraction.
The exhibition also considers the effect the advent of abstraction has had on painters’ determination to continue painting non-abstractly. It aims to open new perspectives on familiar artists and to draw some of the lines connecting a number of today’s best painters to their modernist forbearers.
The exhibition features works from: Michael Armitage, Francis Bacon, Georg Baselitz , Sacha Braunig, Cecily Brown , Jeffrey Camp, Gillian Carnegie, Patrick Caulfield, Marcel Duchamp, Tracey Emin , Rafael Ferrer, John Finneran, Lucian Freud, Apostolos Georgiou, Dominico Gnoli , Philip Guston, Barkley L. Hendricks, Gary Hume, Ilya Kabakov, Sanya Kantarovsky, Alex Katz, Karen Kilimnik , Ella Kruglyanskaya, Friedrich Kunath , Mernet Larsen , Rosa Loy, Calvin Marcus, Henri Matisse, Marilyn Minter, Giorgio Morandi, Alice Neel , Chris Ofili, David Park, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Magnus Plessen , Tal R, Dana Schutz, Michael Simpson , Bob Thompson, Henry Taylor, Jonas Wood, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.
Representational painting has always been made in cognisance of abstraction – sometimes polemically against it but more often incorporating aspects of it into a new synthesis. The exhibition draws on some of the forms in which this contentious encounter has taken place and the many ways painters have revised their concept of representation as a result.
The exhibition takes its title from Francis Bacon’s explanation of his art to David Sylvester as ‘a kind of tightrope walk between what is called figurative painting and abstraction.’ He continued, ‘It will go right out from abstraction, but will really have nothing to do with it. It’s an attempt to bring the figurative thing up on to the nervous system more violently and more poignantly.’ In many different ways painters before and since Bacon have been walking this tightrope between abstraction and the recognisable image, and the results have included some of the greatest works of the last century.
‘Tightrope Walk’ is curated by Barry Schwabsky, art critic for The Nation in New York and co-editor of international reviews for Artforum as well as author of several books included Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting (Phaidon Press) and its sequel, Vitamin P2. His new book, The Perpetual Guest: Art in the Unfinished Present, will be published by Verso (London and New York) in March. A fully illustrated book, with an essay by Barry Schwabsky, is also published to coincide with the exhibition.
Image: © Alex Katz, DACS, London / VAGA, New York 2015. Photo © Paul Takeushi Courtesy White Cube.
‘Tightrope Walk: Painted Images after Abstraction’ – Curated by Barry Schwabsky – White Cube Bermondsey (North & South Galleries) – 24 November 2015 to 24 January 2016