Skarstedt is pleased to present Radical Abstraction, the exhibition of works by twelve artists, who have resolutely interrogated the notion and method of abstract painting. Presenting works by Joe Bradley, Wade Guyton, Charline von Heyl, Jacqueline Humphries, Albert Oehlen, Marco Pariani, Steven Parrino, Richard Prince, Amy Sillman, Rudolf Stingel, Sue Williams and Christopher Wool, the exhibition spans the period from the late 1980s down to the present, tracing visual modes and attitudes which, in distinct ways, have pushed the boundaries of the medium, asserting the renewed significance of abstraction in contemporary artistic discourse.
Having come of age in the 1980s and 1990s, many artists in this exhibition embraced abstract painting amid its proclaimed end as an outmoded artistic medium. Following the 1970s, the decade dominated by minimalism and conceptualism, the expressive potential of making a mark with brush on canvas became radically undermined. The connection between artistic gesture and individual emotional affect postulated by Abstract Expressionism and Art Informel was dismantled and critiqued for its gendered implications. Invariably aware of the prevalent resistance to the medium at the time, artists in Radical Abstraction have worked with and against it, devising divergent, yet unequivocally new modes of making an abstract gesture. As Jacqueline Humphries recalled, “at the time of my early encounters with the medium, to paint at all denoted artistic failure. So painting’s status as a disavowed underside of art-making gave it fresh meaning – it was almost a kind of rogue practice.”
Superimposing meandering strokes with immaculate stripes in grey and black, Crash Course (Atalante), 2016 by Charline von Heyl presents a meticulously painted composition which simultaneously mimics rapid brushwork and mechanical reproduction. Upon getting closer, the work reveals the artist’s painstaking imitation of a broad brushstroke, evincing von Heyl’s singular approach to abstraction – stripped of the load of existential expression, whilst creating a striking visual experience fusing doubt and certainty, simulation and sincerity.
Applying layers of paint through carefully arranged stencils of a traditional carpet pattern in Untitled (2012), Rudolf Stingel turns to a perennial motif in his work. Interlacing a complex shimmering monochrome with a decorative image, Untitled operates in dialogue with early Roller Paintings by Christopher Wool, also on view here. Employing ready-made pattern rollers typically used in home decoration, Wool similarly conflates painted surface with a mechanically produced image thereby limiting personal touch to irregularities of the printing process. In Untitled (2005), Wade Guyton further probes our conception of abstract painting, as he repeatedly feeds linen support through an inkjet printer to build the composition. Inextricably linked to the production process, the resulting image combines precision of digital printing with chance smudges of ink on heavy fabric, in a complete exclusion of a conventional gesture.
Looking closely at Dallas (2012) by Sue Williams, elegant sinuous lines reminiscent of mid-century abstract compositions configure into smaller masked images and words floating in the pictorial field. Presenting architectural elements, body organs and faces peering through the swirls and strokes of colour, Williams emphasises the gendered subtext of Abstract Expressionism, simultaneously devising a novel language of abstraction to address the feminist discourse. As the curator Michael Rush wrote, “The energy of the painted lines, which almost seemed motorised on the canvas, singled Williams out as a leading practitioner of a new abstraction, a revitalised abstraction that was filtered through her experience as a woman and a painter.”
Projecting a sense of methodical reflection on the medium, works in the exhibition present new ways of seeing abstract painting as material and conceptual, constructing new possibilities of image-making by some of the key voices in contemporary artistic practice.
 J. Humphries, “Statement”, Artforum, Summer 2011, p. 351
 M. Rush, Sue Williams: A Fine Line, Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Palm Beach, 2002, n.p.