The Hole is proud to announce our second solo exhibition by Johnny Abrahams entitled "Threnody." Utilizing both exhibition spaces, Abrahams will exhibit thirteen new paintings and five shaped painting groups.
Abrahams' new works mark a departure from his earlier kinetic line and pattern paintings, whose optical focus conjured moiré patterns and other visual effects. With the new oil-on-canvas abstractions, characterized by large geometric forms painted in bold color on raw canvas, Abrahams creates visually harmonious, meditative paintings. The sharp compositions—in white, red, black, or blue—focus on structure, rhythm, gravity, and negative space.
Abrahams differs from other hard-edge abstractors in that the work expresses both rhyme and meter, through repetitions and subtle interactions between the painted forms. Spreading the oil paint across the painting with a giant palette knife, subtle and arbitrary ridges appear upon Abrahams' surfaces which at first appear to be smooth and flat. This process results in an accidental language of movement and depth within the clean, pure abstractions. These sizable yet balanced monochromes possess a remarkable quietude from their perfect edges and brushless application.
Also on view are multi-panel shaped paintings where the artist creates a perfect handmade panel and stretches canvas over it. Primary color oil sticks are scribbled evenly across the surface and sides, blending a child-like artist hand with geometric carpentry, upending the traditional use of shaped canvasses to represent color objects. As in other works in the show, Abrahams blends different ‘60s abstract approaches to surprise our museum-weary eyes and look anew at the core concerns of minimalism and abstraction, unfettered by art historical assumptions.
Aspects of each series call to mind the explorations of early abstract and minimalist artists. The formula-based sketching in of the multi-panel pieces has aspects of a Sol LeWitt wall drawing. The simple white shaped panel pieces evoke a desaturated Ellsworth Kelly, while the rectangular black stack oil paintings conjure works on paper by sculptor Richard Serra. The
black paint itself could be considered in the context of "beyond-black" French painter Pierre Soulages, and the use of red, violent and all-encompassing like Anish Kapoor. Yves Klein blue makes an appearance but is used more like Cuban-American painter Carmen Herrera, and the heavy piling of shapes in the paintings recall architect Tadao Ando's concrete slabs with thin negative space.
What makes this exhibition more than a greatest hits remix is the way the artist approaches his subject matter. The red oil paintings are inspired by the specific red of plastic Solo cups, the curved forms drawn from Head & Shoulders shampoo and Kikkoman soy sauce bottles. Many of the compositions derive from the forms suggested by his detailed line paintings of the past few years, zoomed in close. Instead of the philosophy dictating the form in an overdetermined critically-minded way, here the artist's inspiration has free range to play and explore amongst the critical battles of the past, reopening some from new angles, closing others off for a fresh thought, surprising them in combination. Abrahams is exploring the vast ontological realm between line and architecture, this exhibition existing in the liminal zone between painting and object.
Johnny Abrahams (b. 1979, Tacoma WA) lives and works in New York. Abrahams’ work has appeared in solo exhibitions both nationally and internationally at The Hole and Jack Hanley in New York, Vigo Gallery in London, and Mediaforms in San Francisco. Recent group exhibitions include “Two on Two” at The Hole, “Summer Mixer” and “Delineation” at Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, and “What’s Up New York”, a traveling exhibition curated by Lawrence Van Hagen presented in Brussels, London, and New York.