On the matter of abstraction (figs. A & B)
Walead Beshty: Untitled (Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University: Waltham, Massachusetts, February 12 - June 9, 2013)

Artist Walead Beshty collaborated with Christopher Bedford, Henry and Lois Foster Director of the Rose, to create On the matter of abstraction (figs. A & B).  Comprised of post-war non-figurative works drawn from the Rose’s permanent collection, the exhibition takes the architecture of the museum’s original building (Max Abramovitz, 1961), and uses it to structure two parallel narratives. The entry level, a terrazzo clad room with floor to ceiling windows, features works in the tradition of analytic abstraction by Ellsworth Kelly, Sol Lewitt, Robert Mangold, Kenneth Noland, Agnes Martin and Judy Chicago, among many others.  Downstairs, the materially laden objects on display demonstrate a contrasting investment in the unruly. With works by Mark Bradford, Jessica Stockholder, Ana Mendieta, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Rauschenberg and Charline von Heyl, among others, the lower level focuses not only on the gesture and body of the artist but also on the cultural detritus of the world at large. Beshty describes the visitor’s descent to the lower floor as a movement from “the cathedral to the cave… both existing as traditional sites of ritual, contemplation and communion.” here re-imagined as a passage from “line to stain.”

Within the same space, Beshty created a separate work, a mirror and glass floor that runs throughout both levels of the building: Untitled (Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University: Waltham, Massachusetts, February 12 – June 9, 2013). According to Bedford, “While Beshty’s floor is not part of the exhibition on the surrounding walls, it does function as a physical armature for the viewing experience, straddling—perhaps even collapsing—the dialectical concept that structures On the matter of abstraction’s two parts.  But while Beshty’s floor may lack an image of its own, it absorbs the world around it through reflection, becoming by virtue of context a highly representational device.  Over time and through use, the surface cracks as a result of visitors’ movements, subsequently taking apart the images of the objects we see in it, until finally that reflected world is nothing more than a dense matrix of fractured images and jagged lines.”

IMAGE:  Photograph by Mike Lovett.