Vernissage, Wednesday, June 5, 6-10pm
Open by appointment until June 26
Curated by Amrita Dhillon and Peter Wilde
Killer Abstract Women is a celebration of contemporary women artists working primarily in abstraction. Operating in a range of media including painting, sculpture, mixed media and photography, their work reveals an obsession with colour, shape and rhythm, and a dedication to experimentation and conceptual innovation.
Since its beginning, abstract art has been defined by towering female figures such as Hilma af Klint, Dora Maar and Lee Krasner, among many others. The rediscovery of Hilma af Klint’s works in 1986 revealed an artist whose bold, colourful images had left recognisable representation years before Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, and Piet Mondrian - making her effectively the world’s first abstract artist. After the Second World War, abstraction proved to be a fruitful artistic language for many artists hoping to overcome national, ideological and identity barriers. Women in particular found a way to transcend gender boundaries through abstraction. Despite the histories of many abstract movements being overwhelmingly defined by male artists, such as abstract expressionism which is associated with a ‘heroic machismo spirit’, process and experimentation with materials were certainly not exclusive to men.
In recent years, many art institutions have hosted all-women’s art shows in an effort to correct historical disparities in representation, which have taken on new significance in the #metoo era. The Solomon R. Guggenheim museum’s exhibition “Hilma Af Klint: Paintings for the Future” has officially become the most-visited exhibition in the museum’s 60-year history. Other important retrospectives have featured Anni Albers, Dora Maar and Dorothea Tanning (Tate Modern), and Lee Krasner (Barbican). However, there is an ongoing debate about whether all-women’s shows should take place at all. The Museum of arts and design (New York), held a panel on the subject in 2015, titled: ‘Do We Need Exhibitions Just for Women? Examining the Specialization of Exhibitions by Gender’. At another panel discussion at The New York Studio School, some artists and curators argued that gender-based shows encourage tokenism and relegate women to the sidelines, while others argued that, after centuries of art shows that featured only men, all-women shows are a necessary corrective.
The adjectives traditionally reserved for the veneration of male artists - aggressive, brash, physical, or calculated, meticulous and scientifically rational - are certainly not amiss in this exhibition. Featured works by Silke Kästner, Claudia Chaseling, Sabine Tress and Katharina Grosse display a clear physicality that is vigorous and dynamic - gestural mark-making bordering on the violent. Bending and warping the visual plane as we know it, Heike Gallmeier’s work is reminiscent of stage sets constructed for an unfolding drama, pieced together with layers of abstracted forms. Artists Deborah Wargon, Gisela Kleinlein and Nina Rodin display work that relates to close observation, obsessive archiving and the manipulation of organic materials associated with experimental science. Passion or premeditation, hot or cold - these are Killer.
Text; Amrita Dhillan