The works displayed in Pace Gallery’s new exhibition do not tell stories, nor do they represent people, objects or places. Yet they exude a palpable energy and an exciting aura of experimentation. By the mid-twentieth century, artists around the world were rejecting realist principles and exploring the possibilities of form, color, and material, not as a means to a pictorial end, but for their own good. The Creation of Abstraction features the works of seven international female artists, born between 1899 and 1972, who saw the potential of abstraction to produce radical and original works of art.
These artists worked in multiple mediums, often using unconventional materials and experimental techniques to push the boundaries of their chosen forms. Italian pioneer Carla Accardi has developed a signature use of sicofoil, a transparent plastic that was not previously considered a work of art. Born in Yorkshire but a cornerstone of the St Ives scene, Barbara Hepworth was the first to pierce her sculptures, filling the curved forms of her bronzes with empty space. Russian-born American Louise Nevelson collected scrap furniture from the streets of New York City and used its tattered bric-a-brac to create towering structures, spray-painted in monochrome and encrusted with odd pockets of forms on a smaller scale: three-dimensional collage.
Arranged over three rooms, these works demand and reward special attention. The work of their making is often visible, from the nails holding together Nevelson’s Transparent Sculpture IV (1967-68) to the natural variations of color on Yto Barrada’s beautiful textiles, geometric grids made of silk dyed with sonic pigments garden in Tangier.
The materials themselves can shine: I admired the dark patterns on the alabaster of Hepworth’s Two Forms (1934), the first work she made after the birth of triplets, and the grainy surface of Slate Relief ( 1994) by Kim Lim from Singapore. , the jagged incisions on one edge calling across the gallery to the protruding slats of Spiral Rhythm (1985-87) by Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair.
The two-dimensional works hanging on the walls are – for the most part – paintings, although not all of them are what they appear to be: Accardi’s Segni Gridi covers a wooden window frame with sicofoil, on which she has paints exuberant black raindrops, while Portuguese artist Leonor Antunes’ delicate anni #26 I (2020) is a canvas of fine brass of deceptive strength reminiscent of the grid forms of American textile artist Anni Albers . It overlooks a central stage where curators have assembled a selection of small, perfectly formed sculptures by Hepworth and Choucair.