How do we write art history today? How can an authentic art history be crafted and conveyed? A brief History of Abstraction is a vital and dynamic exhibition concept that discusses and enriches the concept of history. Rønnebæksholm has invited artist Julie Sass to give her take on the brief history of the artistic phenomenon of abstraction – a phenomenon around which her own practice revolves. Through 60 works by 23 artists from 11 countries, covering a period of nearly 100 years, the exhibition frames the elements of abstraction in which Sass sees the greatest potential today, and Sass herself also gives them form through new works.
When writing history, be it the story of an epoch, country or artistic concept, significance is attributed to certain events, places, people and objects, while others are largely disregarded. It could not be any different; no history can be all-encompassing. Thus, every historiography is an abstraction of reality, with relatively few elements serving as landmarks in the narrative. This understanding points to the importance scrutinising history in search of elements omitted in the past which may prove important today. Do other places merit our focus? Can we, and should we, give voice to different storytellers? How would the narrative of art history be shaped differently if it were written by artists?
Sass chose abstraction as the theme of the exhibition because it runs throughout her entire artistic practice, which includes paintings, collages, graphics, textiles, books and texts. The exhibition A Brief History of Abstraction unfurls a new narrative of the history of abstraction and its present-day potential, presenting works and correlations previously unrecognised in a Scandinavian context.
Abstraction is both a general description of completely or partially non-figurative works, and a term for the thought process by which only the most essential features of an object are attributed relevance. Sass explores abstraction as an open field where elements and shapes comprising a common imagery emerge across cultures, time and geography. The exhibition offers a unique window into the machinery of Sass’ artistic practice and works, which arise through an ongoing dialogue with the works and ideas of other artists, and ultimately constitute specific expressions of a complex history that transcends the conventional categorical boundaries and frameworks of art history.
Alain Biltereyst, Ann Pibal, Arturo Herrera, Dan Walsh, Ebbe Stub Wittrup, Erin Lawlor, Eva Steen Christensen, Hansina Iversen, Henri Michaux, James Hyde, Maria Buras, Man Ray, Marie Søndergaard Lolk, Michelle Grabner, Moira Dryer, Noël Dolla, Rachel Beach, Rannva Kunoy, Shirley Jaffe, Shirley Goldfarb, Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Vilhelm Bjerke Petersen, Yoko Ono. Julie Sass includes both her older works and new works created specifically for the exhibition.
“The artistic explorations in A Brief History of Abstraction derive directly from questions in our time revolving around originality and what it means to create with others. The objects we see in the exhibition have very different points of departure but can all be contained within the field we call abstraction. Abstraction is an open field – in movement and filled with possibilities – rather than a static concept. Our visual language appears to consist of interchangeable core elements that we share through time and across cultures.
I regard ‘artworks’ in a traditional sense as works linked to a creating individual, the artist, but they can also be transformed into objects detached from the artist through staging and situation within a historical context – objects that belong to our shared story and imagination. Every work exudes its own independence, yet this exploration seeks to unfold the works within a new context.
A Brief History of Abstraction invites new art historical cross references that are not chronological but rather spirals crossing the bounds of time and geography – thus disrupting the existing historical ‘order’. The exhibition is a continuation of my ongoing conversation with people and artists who are essential to my work and my way of thinking.” – Julie Sass
Julie Sass (b. 1971) studied visual art at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and at New York University in New York City (MFA), where she specialised in painting. She holds an MA in Theory & Mediation from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.
The exhibition is supported by Statens Kunstfond, Bikuben Foundation, The Beckett-Foundation and Bikubens Fusionsfond.
May 5 – September 2, 2018