Blair Thurman

23 Oct 2014 – 22 Nov 2014

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'Well, "SLITHY" means "lithe and slimy." "Lithe" is the same as "active." You see it's like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into oneword.' Lewis Carroll,Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)Like a portmanteau word, Blair Thurman’s work brings together otherwise distinct worlds of meaning. While at the same time evoking Minimalist art,Pop art and Op art, it also reveals a new approach to abstraction: a subjective translation of the ambiguous equivalences between art and reality and vice versa. And yet, when one looks at the works – the shaped canvases, the neons, the installations – this syncretic aesthetic fills one with a sense of inevitability.

Theshaped canvasesare paintings and sculptures at the same time. They combine the shape of the stretcher and the pictorial quality of the canvas.The picture is an object and the support a pattern which the painting sometimes redraws. As in Frank Stella’s shaped canvases, the edges of the support seem to define its content, but Blair Thurman leaves the irregular lines of the painting visible. By means of this painterly effect he moves away from modernist neutrality and autonomy and makes a point of dirtying the canvas, making it ‘unclean’. The shaped canvases also often include openwork, and the more or less complex geometrical shapes of the openings create images in the blanks between, as well as on the canvas. An oval becomes a fan belt; a rectangle a road. This displacement had already taken place while observing reality: a racing circuit became a circle, part of a fighter plane became a triangle. At the beginning of 1990s, looking at the work of his friend Steven Parrino, Thurman experienced a formal breakthrough that coincided for him with a nostalgic and obsessional return of a personal imagery, in particular his passion since childhood for Hot Wheels cars and racing circuit models. Parrino used the word ‘deformalism’ for this integration of elements external to abstraction. Abstraction accepts its own ‘impurity’, its influence in aesthetic history, and the way it has been admitted into the ‘Society of Spectacle’. Reality on the other hand has been elevated to the status of image. With his ‘found abstraction’, Thurman is working the same seam of research as his friends John Armleder, Francis Baudevin, Stéphane Dafflon, Philippe Decrauzat, Olivier Mosset and Mai-Thu Perret. As, ‘The introduction of the expression “found abstraction”’, Vincent Pécoil wrote, ‘needs to be understood in the “appropriationist” context of the 1980s, which favoured a blurring of the distinction between abstract and figurative art.’

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Blair Thurman


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