Gifting Abstraction
Curated by Mariángeles Soto-Díaz
SOHO20 Gallery
New York, NY
October 4–29, 2011

Featuring works by Melanie Crader, Matthew Deleget, Anoka Faruqee, Michelle Grabner, Brent Hallard, John Hawke, Gilbert Hsiao, Pablo Manga, Thomas Martin, Leah Raintree, Claudia Sbrissa, Karen Schifano, Karen Schiff, Jessica Snow, Mariángeles Soto-Díaz, Robert Strati, Ann Tarantino

Gifting Abstraction establishes an intimate economy within Soho20Chelsea gallery in which abstract objects have not yet turned into objectified commodities. The gift economy paradigm recognizes that there is value outside market forces, and that the gift renders forces and riches of its own. One of the perplexing aspects of the gift is that while its effect cannot be quantified, its intention is generally palpable: at its best, the gift generates a sense of interconnectedness. In this exhibition, artists’ labor stretches beyond the works themselves, as connective lines are symbolically rendered through the gifting process onto a relational dimension.

Gifting Abstraction questions the idea that abstract works are inextricably bound to the marketplace and therefore to a larger discourse of individualism. Abstraction has been construed as standing in direct opposition to the “relational aesthetics” theorized by Nicolas Bourriaud: “It seems more pressing to invent possible relations with our neighbors in the present than to bet on happier tomorrows.” Bourriaud implicitly pits object-based art practices such as abstract painting – which he associates with the notion of (failed) utopias – against what he calls “microtopia,” a provisional, DIY, relational approach to art.

This exhibition dismantles these oppositions, bringing abstract objects into a shifting and relational process. The arrangement of abstract art works in the exhibit will change regularly over 20 days based on choices by the participating artists. Each artist gifts a piece and selects one from the exhibition to take at the end of the show. There will be a diagram notating each selection, and artists can rearrange the works after they select their gift. Each artist communicates with the previous and subsequent “gifting” artists, and with the other artists of the show through a blog designed for that purpose, in an exhibit where the relationships among the artists are of primary importance. Also inspired by Umberto Eco’s poetics of the “open work,” this exhibition changes with each gift, creating a new communicative situation through the abstract works themselves.

Gifting Abstraction, curated by Mariángeles Soto-Díaz, is part of Abstraction at Work, a series dedicated to rethinking abstraction’s functions through projects ranging from installations to curatorial experiments.

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