Article excerpt

It's not often that we get to see new work by Tomma Abts. The artist's labor-intensive process only allows her to produce about ten paintings a year, so it is with a certain excitement that one waits to see whether she has succeeded in further refining her concentrated, steadily developing oeuvre.

This show was sparse, consisting of five paintings and eight drawings, with each medium presented separately on a different floor. The paintings, displayed downstairs, were hung in a row and generously spaced on one long wall. In this simple hang, Abts introduced delicate but crucial nuances characteristic of the way she creates her sense of space and illusion. Her painting is, after all, concerned with boundaries, overlappings, and contradictions among sensory perception and pictorial space--abstract motifs give the illusion of three-dimensionality but then shift to a graphic, two-dimensional look, combining both impulses in a cleverly contradictory effect. The minimal manipulations of the gaze in Abts's installation of the paintings extended this artistic strategy into real space: The intervals between the pictures seemed equivalent but actually varied by a few inches. Given the length of the wall, this incongruence was barely noticeable, but its effects lingered just beneath the threshold of perception. Moreover, Abts hung the pictures unusually low, considerably below eye level.


The five paintings--all being shown for the first time and dating from 2009 (except for Deke, 2006)--offered few surprises in terms of their formal vocabulary. They are all typical Abts pieces and make use of familiar parameters: a classical portrait format of nineteen by fifteen inches, odd titles like Hemko or Koes that derive from Friesian first names, a composition process based on layering different strata of paint, and so forth. …


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