Past Exhibitions

Enacting Abstraction

February 14 to May 10, 2009


James Welling
Untitled (#F-1), 1986
ink on paper
Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery
Gift of Ann and Marshall Webb


The language of abstraction has informed and influenced artistic production for more than a century. The rejection of the figurative in favour of abstract art in the early decades of the 20th century posed a challenge to European artistic traditions that depended on representation of the real world and created radically new possibilities for artistic expression. Through their use of bold forms, textures and colours, artists created a new formal language, one that used these new “tools?in their purest, most fundamental states. The exploration of the expressive, spiritual and conceptual potential of colour, line and shape was a central component of Modernism and continues to occupy artists working today.

Enacting Abstraction considers the ideas and formal strategies of abstract art from the early decades of the 20th century to its contemporary revitalized iterations. From the highly emotive and painterly abstract works of Les Automatistes to the hard-edge forms of Minimalism to the language of Conceptualism, the exhibition examines how artists translate the central tenets of abstraction to serve their own formal and conceptual needs. Throughout the exhibition, works by younger contemporary artists will be contextualized with work from earlier generations, creating a dialogue between the pioneers of abstraction and artists who are extending and critiquing their methods and strategies. Drawn primarily from the Vancouver Art Gallery’s collection, Enacting Abstraction offers an opportunity to rethink abstraction.