In “Figures on a Ground”, an extensive exhibition that brings together woman artists of different generations, the Fondation CAB dismantles some reductive ideas about minimalist art. Open to nature, to spirituality, and to the body, the pieces do not only speak of themselves, but resonate with everything around them.
Minimalist art is thought to be all about structure and precision. A dialogue of forms, surfaces, and colours to be interpreted as a whole, without outside references. Agnes Martin's painting is best viewed from up close. As you approach the square divided into bands of pastel colours, the delicacy and sensitivity of its execution become clear. Subtle variations in the material suggest the trembling of the artist's hand. The artist compares the sense of serenity that emanates from it to the way you might feel when you open a curtain to view nature. Martin, who has been painting since the beginning of the nineteen-sixties, has taken part in exhibitions alongside the pioneers of minimalism. And she is far from the only woman associated with the movement.
Your first impression on arriving in the large space of the Fondation CAB is one of abundance and multiplicity. Claudia Comte's fresco converses with Charlotte Posenenske's sculptures made of recycled cardboard and the painted sculptures in wood by Julia Mangold, pieces that you have to move around in order to get a real sense of their size and their relationship with the space. “We wanted to add some chaos to the order to the broaden the concept of minimalist art and diversify its profile,” says Eléonore de Sadeleer, co-curator of the exhibition.
The pieces on display demolish the notion of the supposed neutrality of a self-referential and rational type of art unencumbered by feelings. The “feminine touch”, if there is one, is perhaps that ability to be open to nature, to spirituality, and to exploring the relationship with the body. The cracked texture covering the work of Jessica Sanders is the result of drying bees' wax on the linen canvas. The texture, which is similar to wrinkles on skin, occurs by chance rather than resulting from a predefined structure. There is more logic in the work of the young artist Tauba Auerbach, who weaves thin strips of canvas. The result is reminiscent of both Pop Art textiles and the structure of a circuit board. Her work is based on the dissonance between the details and the whole, as with static on a screen.
Mary Obering's minimalism involves the repetition of simple forms and warm colours. Fascinated by Renaissance painting, she has borrowed techniques from it, such as gold leaf and tempera, which she applies directly to gesso panels to create vast depths beneath an opulent surface. Sonia Kacem, a young artist who was offered a residency at the Fondation CAB at the beginning of the year, explores the sculptural potential of unconventional materials. In an intriguing diptych, she explores forms with heavy coloured awning fabrics, alternating between horizontal and vertical.
Although the minimalist movement has never united behind a single manifesto, its major artists have defined the principles that govern their work in various interviews in the artistic press. Ariane Loze presented some of those tenets in her video Minimal Art, made during a residency at the Fondation CAB. In it, the Belgian artist performs in the locations, assuming different silhouettes and characters to present minimalist thought by playfully mirroring it with architecture. “Your limits are your reality ” she tells us.
FIGURES ON A GROUND
> 12/12, Fondation CAB, fondationcab.com