Discursive Abstraction:
Works on Paper from the 1950s to the present

Larry Bell, Ed Cohen, Yvonne Estrada, Sam Francis,
Robert Motherwell, William Scott, Graham Sutherland,
William Tillyer and Brian Wood

January 11 through February 25, 2012

Bernard Jacobson Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition that explores the nature of abstraction and how it is expressed specifically on paper. Discursive Abstraction: Works on Paper from the 1950s until the present opens on January 11th and will remain on view through February 25th, 2012. Please join us for an opening in the gallery on Wednesday January 11th.

The exhibition includes works by artists long associated with the gallery such as Larry Bell, Sam Francis, Robert Motherwell, William Scott, Graham Sutherland and William Tillyer. We are also pleased to include a few non-gallery artists with Ed Cohen, Yvonne Estrada and Brian Wood.

This exhibition quietly observes a group of works on paper over a 60-year period by a disparate set of artists, chiefly British and American, whose primary common denominator is an eye towards abstraction. Ideally it will give the viewer an opportunity to observe various means of expressing abstraction on paper that are both fluent and expansive - it is not about a hard edge or geometric visual language so much as an organic and ephemeral discourse.

Chronologically it begins with a lively and colorful work by British artist Graham Sutherland from 1951 that is by no means purely abstract. In Terraced Hill with Stones, Sutherland has reduced forms in nature to vastly simplified, purely aesthetic terms. Another notable early work in the exhibition is by William Scott, a prolific painter, poet, muralist and sculptor who expressed himself both abstractly and figuratively throughout his career. One of the few works in the show composed simply of pencil on paper, Idea IV, 1964 depicts abstracted artifacts of the everyday.

Robert Motherwell's dynamic Study in Watercolour #1 (In Green and Blue), 1968 illustrates the artist's masterful ability to create palpable visual frisson and acuity of form via gesture. A splash of blue dances playfully across the page on top of a solid block of horizontal bright green. Motherwell was particularly fertile in making drawings. This preoccupation followed him from the 1950's with his interest in automatism (which he often referred to as 'doodling', inspired by the surrealist movement) through to the mid-1960's with the Beside the Sea and Lyric Suite series to his Gesture series of the 1970's. Late Motherwell works on paper saw a return to earlier influences and obsessions as widely diverse and eclectic as James Joyce, "psychic automatism", Chinese brush painting, Mexican folk art, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse.

Sam Francis is splendidly represented here by two works on paper from the 1970's; Blue Ball, acrylic on paper and Untitled, 1974, gouache on paper. The former picture illustrates the open, spontaneous and playful gesture that was characteristic of the Blue Ball series whereas the latter picture is an example of a more contained and restricted composition. Each of these two works favorably bask in the richness and depth of the color blue.

Larry Bell who is best known for his minimal cube sculptures of tinted glass and steel has also made beautiful works on paper over his long and prodigious career. Shown in this exhibit, are four of Bell's "fraction" series from 2000. These fractions originated actually as an experiment; they are all small, mostly 10" square constructed collages that are made up of discarded fragments of Bell's previous series called the "mirage" works. These small exuberant "fractions" are full of details, color and a pulsing sensation perhaps made palpable by their uncommon perceptual effects.

William Tillyer is a British born artist/thinker philosopher with tremendous aesthetic flexibility. Tillyer, an accomplished painter, print-maker, watercolorist, draughtsman and sculptor who possesses phenomenal technical abilities in all media, could be seen specifically as a landscape artist. However, although creating breathtaking landscape imagery in a league of his own, Tillyer reaches and moves beyond that genre to engage in a relentless probing of the very essence of his particular medium especially in the instance of watercolor. Both of the Tillyer works in this show, Metamorphosis 2010 and Towards the Naming of Names in the Landscape 2010, reveal luminous colour and synthesized form and space culminating in a fleeting ephemeral language. In a recent Tillyer publication John Yau writes: "While a small part of his genius has to do with history and circumstance - what one is tempted to call fate - the larger more important part has to do with the inventiveness with which he has repeatedly advanced his project, which, in formal and metaphysical terms, can be described as the collision between form and dissolution, solidity and transparency, dust and water."1

The works on paper of Ed Cohen, a New York based artist, belie a deep interest in & engagement with gesture, immediacy and spontaneity. Cohen pours fluid acrylic paint onto his surfaces be it canvas, wood or paper, and allows the flow of the paint to manifest & materialize accordingly - creating highly erotic and moody imagery that evokes interior and exterior landscapes which probe a subconscious terrain. Cohen culls inspiration from multiple disciplines including literature - especially poetry, music, nature and among other art forms, there is a particular focus on Japanese Enso paintings from the 17th century. In referencing Cohen's titles for his pictures, Nathacha Appanah writes in a recent catalogue: "Put together, the titles could form a long poem that would speak of the ungraspable beauty, mystery and fortuity of life."2

Yvonne Estrada is a Colombian born artist living and working in Brooklyn. Her works on paper are methodically composed lyrical abstractions created by adding layer upon layer of gesture to reveal highly delicate and intricate imagery rooted in the natural world. Estrada's approach though labor-intensive and elaborate has a spontaneous and playful character.

Brian Wood is a Canadian-born artist living and working in New York City who utilizes painting, drawing, printmaking, and photography. Whether working within one medium, or combining several to create hybrids, Wood’s images evoke innumerable states of consciousness in their investigation of pre-linguistic primal experience. In this exhibition, his two graphite drawings demonstrate immediacy and economy of line and his two ink drawings on mylar open into intense and complex space.

Works in the exhibition vary in medium from graphite to watercolor, collage, fluid acrylic, colored pencils, gouache, crayon, ink on mylar, mixed media etc. and will attempt to differentiate methods of process including pouring, spilling, pooling, laminating, staining, laboring, gesturing and so on.

We would like to gratefully acknowledge Winston Wächter Fine Art, New York for kindly loaning works by Ed Cohen. Cohen currently has a solo show on view through January 21st. We also wish to thank the Von Lintel Gallery, New York for kindly loaning works by Yvonne Estrada who also has a solo show currently on view. Please see details below for both.

Ed Cohen - Untying the Knot
December 8 through January 21, 2012
Winston Wächter Fine Art
530 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10011

Yvonne Estrada - Blue
January 12 through February 18, 2012
Opening reception: January 12
Von Lintel Gallery
520 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011

1. "William Tillyer - Watercolours" by John Yau, 21 Publishers, 2010 pg. 16

 2. "Letter to Ed on Visiting his Studio" by Nathacha Appanah, Winston Wächter Fine Art, 2011 New York, pg. 1