For the 2018 edition of Art Basel: Miami Beach, the gallery is pleased to present Material Abstraction, an exhibition of six signature works by three gallery artists—Ralph Humphrey, Howardena Pindell, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. Throughout their careers these artists exhibited together in countless historic group shows, many of which problematized the characterization of their work as “process” or “ABC art.” Working in reaction to the thin, impersonal surfaces of minimalism, Pop art, and Color Field painting, these artists returned to familiar modes of “painterly” handling of pigments, while opening new paths to emotional and political expression.
The presentation includes Ralph Humphrey’s Untitled (1975), an iconic example from the artist’s Conveyance series. These paintings—hulking masses of casein and modeling paste in blacks, blues, and browns—often loosely resemble actual objects, like packages or containers. Ostensibly, they are vessels for Humphrey’s emotions, life experiences, and ideas about painting.
Howardena Pindell’s unstretched canvas, Autobiography: Japan (Tombo No Hane) (1982–1983), is an early and important example from the artist’s Autobiography series, which she began following a life-altering car accident that left her contending with memory loss. As a means to reconstruct memory but also to challenge notions of Western perspectival space, she embedded snippets of postcards in her paintings. This mixed-media work epitomizes the merging of her art and her philosophical understanding of Japanese cultural and spiritual life. The work’s shape is asymmetrical and the color a soft pink. The patches of images are all irregularly yet perfectly placed, as one might only find in nature. The title literally means “dragonfly wing,” and it is perhaps the speckling of the insect that inspired the quiet flow of images across the canvas.
Finally, the presentation includes two works by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith—Ronan Robes #1 (1977) and Ronan Robes #4 (1977). In partial reference to the buffalo robes historically traded in the American Northwest, Smith transforms her canvases through a unique and lengthy process. First, the canvases are cut into the shapes of animal hides and washed repeatedly until they begin to unravel. The artist then dyes them with natural pigments and paints them with oils. Next, she covers the works in melted beeswax, creating a leathery surface. Last, the canvases are rolled and hung over a smoldering fire and smoked, in a manner similar to tanning. These works are early examples of the artist’s complex and intersecting interests in both cultural and art history.
Garth Greenan Gallery is pleased to represent Howardena Pindell, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and the Estate of Ralph Humphrey.