Still Abstract After All These Years

Art and Antiques

February 1, 2013

Of all the styles, theory-driven rallying cries, movements, schools

and creative curiosities that have played memorable parts in modern art's

evolution, few have been as durable and permutable as abstraction-in

painting, sculpture and countless mixed-media forms.

Today, photo-based and conceptualist art genres, influenced by postmodernist

critical theory, may still rule the roost in some precincts of the

art market, but wherever painting and sculpture are still robustly present,

expect to find abstract works by well-known masters and up-and-comers

alike on view in galleries and museums. The creations of the five U.S.based

artists profiled here offer a vivid portrait of the different ways in

which art-makers are still finding meaning and expressive power in the

enduring language of abstraction.

POUR, BABY POUR! It was during a residency a couple of years

ago at Yaddo, the upstate New York retreat for painters, poets,

writers, composers and other artists, that Elisabeth Condon began

experimenting with a paint-pouring technique on canvas, combining

its results with brushy, random patterns and depictions of

various recognizable subjects -trees, rock formations, a craggy

mountain here or an isolated Buddhist temple there. Condon grew

up in Los Angeles, where she was a teen fan of 1970s glam rock

and studied at U.C.L.A. and the Otis College of Art and Design.

Having soaked up that sprawling city's always-in-motion vibe

and Southern California's light, she eventually traded her platform

shoes for Taoist texts and books about ancient Chinese painting.

Her interests and influences are as diverse and unpredictable as

her compositions are well-balanced and complete, even inevitable.

This is true despite the tough odds she sets up for herself with

her combination of postmodernist pastiche and exciting accident.

For an artist who has said, "I want to work with direct experience

as much as possible; it feels more real to me" (so goes the

love song of abstract-expressionist painting), it's no surprise that

she has also observed, "I think about space in terms of layers

and immediate visual impact." For Condon, space - real space

around her and that of her painted images - is a container for a

"tsunami of visual information to sort out."

Settled on canvas, to which, in more recent works, Condon

has affixed Mylar sheets, those waves of color have incorporated

dramatic splashes of paint and shiny, wrinkled surface textures,

too, all in homage to the spirit of the music-club nightlife of the

artist's not-so-distant, sequined youth.

Read more about the artist

Elisabeth Condon