Alan Cristea Gallery presents Linear Abstraction, an exhibition examining differing approaches to geometric abstraction in editioned form. By virtue of its constituent processes, printmaking offers the possibility to create, manipulate and define a mark or colour in far greater depth and precision than almost any other medium. The exhibition includes graphic work by leading artists; Eduardo Chillida, Ian Davenport, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Robert Mangold, Bridget Riley, Sean Scully, Frank Stella and Josef and Anni Albers.
Linear Abstraction runs concurrently with the exhibition of work by Richard Serra in the gallery’s other exhibition space at 34 Cork Street.
Josef Albers, a founding member of the Bauhaus, was one of the most innovative printmakers of the twentieth century, making use of numerous print media, including etching, engraving, woodcut, lithography and screenprinting. A pioneer of colour theory, he is perhaps best remembered for his Homage to the Square images, the square proving to be the ideal vehicle for his explorations into the interaction of colour.
Linear Abstraction will include Albers’ penultimate portfolio of prints; Mitred Squares (1974), compositionally a subtle variation on the Homage to the Square format, which Albers had introduced into a small number of paintings. The prints are distinct from their painted counterparts in their purity of surface and clarity of colour. In some ways they represent the distillation of his artistic theory and practice. As editions they became powerful tools for dissemination and education; as artworks they are technically brilliant layerings of colour and line. Albers taught at Yale from 1950 to 1958, where his students included Robert Mangold, Elsworth Kelly (whose works will also feature in Linear Abstraction), and Richard Serra.
Frank Stella is recognised as one of the most influential artists of the Twentieth Century and was at the forefront of the Minimalist movement. Stella began printmaking in the mid-1960s, and is renowned for his minimalist aesthetic, as well as his innovative approach to abstraction in printmaking, experimenting with lithography, screenprinting, etching and offset lithography. His resulting prints are often characterised by bold, industrial colors and stark geometric logic.
Bridget Riley emerged in the1960s as an influential pioneer of Op-Art. Although similar to Albers in her method of serial production, she is less interested in technique, instead using screenprint as a way of realising and disseminating her own form of optical abstraction. Riley’s distinctive work actively engages the viewer’s perception, producing visual experiences that are complex and challenging, subtle and arresting. Linear Abstraction features Untitled (La Lune en Rodage – Carlo Belloli) (1965); monochrome and optically challenging, this work is characteristic of her earliest screenprints.
Whilst aesthetically there is a close affinity between much of the work of Riley and Ian Davenport, they have approached printmaking from very different backgrounds. Davenport is best known as one of the generation of Young British Artists and in 1991 he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize. His exploration of colour is allied with an engagement to process and this combination is fundamental to Davenport’s work. The editions he makes are borne out of lengthy experimentation during which he often realises a number of unique colour variations. Linear Abstraction includes several Colorplan Monoprints, variants developed from his most recent editions, Colorplan Series.
Over the years, Sean Scully has developed and refined his own recognisable style of geometric abstraction and most notably his characteristic motif of the ‘stripe'. Although he his predominately known for his monumental paintings, he is also a gifted printmaker who has made a notable body of woodcuts and etchings.
Best known for his monumental sculptures in iron and stone, Eduardo Chillida also has a distinguished oeuvre of etchings, lithographs and woodcuts, which retain something of the physical, weighty quality of his sculptures. Chillida’s work often makes reference to the work of poets, writers and philosophers admired by the artist. Linear Abstraction will feature a series of aquatints which were published to accompany a body of poetry by Swiss poet Charles Racine.
Ellsworth Kelly’s rigorous exploration of colour and form made him a key figure in post-war Abstraction. His pioneering works fuse Minimalism, Colour Field Painting and Modernism.
The exhibition will feature several lithographs by the artist. Exploiting the sharp contrast between its component colours, Yellow/Black (1970) suggests a three-dimensional form, whilst Red/Yellow/Blue (1990) continues an expansive series of two and three-colour paintings.
Robert Mangold elides lyrical structures with hard edge colour. Since the 1960s Mangold, an influential member of the American Minimalist school, has developed an artistic vocabulary derived from the idea of geometry and asymmetry in shape and form. Mangold's use of subtle colour and curvilinear abstract forms are associated with Minimalism but also recall other sources from Ancient Greek pottery to Renaissance frescoes.