Radical

January 8 - May 26, 2019 - Mr. and Mrs. Chesley G. Magruder Gallery I

January 8 - May 26, 2019 - Mr. and Mrs. Chesley G. Magruder Gallery II

Abstraction is staggeringly radical, circumvents language, and sidesteps naming or mere description. It disenchants, re-enchants, detoxifies, destabilizes, resists closure, slows perception, and increases our grasp of the world. - Jerry Saltz, The Jerry Saltz Abstract Manifesto


Throughout most of the 20th century, abstraction was associated with the most risky and progressive developments in modern art. It was often controversial because it seemed to reject a long history of revered ideas about the value and meaning of art. Aesthetic ideas established by centuries of philosophical discourse and artistic achievement were challenged by young artists and their critical champions. From about 1910 to 1970, abstract art grew to become the preeminent practice of the most advanced artists of the period. In many ways it came to represent the triumph of the modern era, profoundly influencing every aspect of culture, including not only visual art, but also architecture, music, industrial design, and popular media.

This exhibition includes a number of prominent mid-20th-century artists such as John Chamberlain, Morris Louis, and Jules Olitski, whose careers were established when abstraction was at its apogee. Also included are works by the generations of artists who followed them, up to the present. These artists continue to find abstraction relevant as a means of exploring fundamental questions about the nature of art and art-making. In the broadest sense, abstract art strives to discover what is essential to the creative ideas that artists explore in the production of their work. Those ideas, which emerge from each artist’s scope of interests and creative growth, allow for endlessly varied works. Experimentation and discovery are fundamental to this mode of working and continue to keep the practice vital.

As New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz states, abstract art’s meaning is diverse and mercurial. For many artists, meaning is conveyed through a visual language of form and arises from the practices and techniques used to create a work. Without representational subjects or literal narratives to dictate what a painting or sculpture is about, the artist’s process of working becomes a way of determining what to make and how to make it. An artist’s practice can be very logical and systematic, such as the mathematical formulas that Tony Robbin uses to generate images of 4-dimensional space. Other artists such as Pat Steir use more informal and intuitive methods. Her paintings are composed of patterns of drips and spatters made by pressing a wet brush against the canvas. Following a process allows an artist to make decisions and move a work of art forward while letting the unexpected to intervene and change its course. The risk of beginning a work without knowing where it will lead is essential to the radical nature of the best abstract art.

Installation view of Radical

Installation view of Radical

Orlando Museum of Art

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paintingdoublebrokenandmeasured

Franklin Evans

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Owl (Coat of Arms)

Chie Fueki

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