Category Archives: Curating

“The Silo” at Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, Dec 10, 2015 – Feb. 6, 2016

Participating Artists:

Valerio Adami, Mary Bauermeister, Gene Beery, Biala, James Bishop, Norman Bluhm, Jonathan Borofsky, Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, James Collins, René Daniëls, Karin Davie, Noël Dolla, Melvin Edwards, Llyn Foulkes, Paul Georges, Rachel Hecker, Shirley Jaffe, Carmengloria Morales, Stephen Mueller, Cora Pongracz, Chris Reinecke, Maya Sachweh, Daniel Spoerri, George Sugarman, Nahum Tevet, Gwenn Thomas, Richard Van Buren

installation view of "The Silo" at Garth Greenan, New York, 2015.

installation view of “The Silo” at Garth Greenan, New York, 2015.

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“Reinventing Abstraction: New York Painting in the 1980s”

In the summer of 2013 I curated Reinventing Abstraction: New York Painting in the 1980s at Cheim and Read Gallery in New York. Below is the press release, plus some links to some of the articles, reviews and blog posts generated by the show. The exhibition catalogue is being distributed by DAP.

The Rectangular Canvas is Dead” by Jed Perl, The New Republic

A Revival with Some Meat to It” by Peter Plagens, Wall Street Journal

Abstraction: the Sequel” by R.C. Baker, Village Voice

Reinventing Abstraction: New York Painting in the 1980s” by Ken Johnson, New York Times, July 11, 2013

Reinventing Abstraction: New York Painting in the 1980s” by Paul Laster, Flash Art, October 2013


Press Release for “Reinventing Abstraction: New York Painting in the 1980s”

Curated by Raphael Rubinstein

Artists: Carroll Dunham, Louise Fishman, Mary Heilmann, Bill Jensen, Jonathan Lasker, Stephen Mueller, Elizabeth Murray, Thomas Nozkowski, David Reed, Joan Snyder, Pat Steir, Gary Stephan, Stanley Whitney, Jack Whitten, Terry Winters

Opens Thursday June 27 from 6-8 pm Exhibition continues through August 30, 2013

This exhibition focuses on New York abstraction in the 1980s as practiced by a generation of painters born between 1939 and 1949. Official accounts of the 1980s—the decade when most of these artists either emerged or solidified their approaches—tend to ignore the individualistic abstraction exemplified by these painters in favor of more easily identifiable movements and styles (Neo-Expressionism, Appropriation Art, Neo-Geo etc). For these artists, who were in their 30s and 40s during the 1980s, it was not a question of a “return to painting,” but, rather, of finding a bridge between the radical, deconstructive abstraction of the late 1960s and 1970s (which many of them had been marked by) with a larger painting history and more subjective approaches. They opened their work to elements that had been largely excluded from abstraction in the previous decade, beginning with a reinvestigation of the conventional rectangular support. They were unafraid to explore gesture, improvisation, relational compositions, allusions to figuration and landscape, as well as art historical and cultural allusions, high and low.

The 1939-1949 bracket encompasses a generation marked by the 1960s, by the social and political upheavals of the period. Rejecting formalism, these artists found diverse means of introducing new content into their work; their abstraction was frequently an impure abstraction. In the early 1980s, biomorphic imagery began to appear in the paintings of Carroll Dunham, Bill Jensen, Thomas Nozkowski and Terry Winters. Other artists such as Elizabeth Murray, Joan Snyder and Mary Heilmann injected autobiography into their work. Explicit references to historical events appeared in the paintings of Louise Fishman and Jack Whitten. In the 1980s, painters such as Stanley Whitney and Stephen Mueller were fighting their way out of Color Field painting, gradually assembling the components of noteworthy personal styles. Via distancing effects and eccentric processes, Jonathan Lasker and David Reed brought radical structural reforms to modernist abstraction. Pat Steir and Gary Stephan staged dramatic confrontations between contemporary painting practices and art historical precedents.

The 1939-1949 frame inevitably leaves out many important older and younger artists of the time (just as the limits of wall space impose other exclusions), but the subject of this show is not the entirety of New York abstract painting of the 1980s, rather what a specific generation contributed to it. Although many artists in the show have received significant attention, “Reinventing Abstraction” challenges existing exclusionary histories by mapping out an artistic time and place that has yet to be canonized, or even acknowledged by the museum and academic mainstream. This exhibition also hopes to draw attention to the historical grounding of much recent work by younger painters. It’s not by chance that the title takes its inspiration from painter Carrie Moyer, who, writing about Stephen Mueller in 2011, identified his as “the generation that reinvented American abstract painting.”


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Provisional Painting, London 2011

Provisional Painting
Curated by Raphael Rubinstein
Artists: Richard Aldrich, Cheryl Donegan, Angiola Gatti, Jacqueline Humphries, Sergej Jensen, Raoul De Keyser, Michael Krebber, Albert Oehlen, Julian Schnabel, Peter Soriano, Richard Tuttle15 April – 21 May, 2011
Private view 14 April, 6-8pmStuart Shave/Modern Art is pleased to announce an exhibition of paintings curated by Raphael Rubinstein.In his recent article ‘Provisional Painting’ (Art in America, May 2009), Raphael Rubinstein sought to identify and assemble a range of painting practices, historic and contemporary. In this exhibition the focus is exclusively on the contemporary, as the writer puts his critical ideals to the test with actual art works.The greatest straightness looks like crookedness. The greatest skill appears clumsy. The greatest eloquence sounds like stammering. – The Tao Te Ching

Provisional paintings are those that might appear unfinished or incomplete; that court intentional awkwardness, physical fragility and instability; that reject the display of conventional skills; that discover beauty in the most unassuming materials; that sometimes grapple with painting’s ‘impossibility’. Their lineage includes Joan Miró’s anti-paintings of circa 1930, Giacometti’s endless obliterations and restartings of his painted portraits, the early work of Sigmar Polke, and the spray-painted abstractions of Martin Barré. The theoretical underpinnings range from Samuel Beckett to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature.

Raoul De Keyser’s concise exposition of painterly ambiguity of image and form is, as so often with this artist, a seemingly casual composition that rewards close, careful attention. Pinning passages of messy sfumato upon stray advertising layouts, Albert Oehlen deposes the medium, sneaks up on grand painting before it can be frozen as a mere masterpiece. For Michael Krebber, no aspect of the medium is taken for granted as the canvas becomes a kind of sublime flypaper, fixing individual gesture and media grabs.

Several painters investigate alternatives to the paintbrush: for Angiola Gatti, the preferred tool is a humble ballpoint pen employed to carve out collapsing spaces; Cheryl Donegan wields a knife to slice into glittering metallic tape in her shredded, stuttering paintings. Peter Soriano’s conceptual wall pieces track their own making, reflecting on the artist’s every decision and
how it might have gone differently. If Sergej Jensen refrains from cluttering his stretched fabrics with even a single stroke, Jacqueline Humphries goes to the other extreme, ceaselessly adding to and obliterating her suspended calligraphy. Richard Aldrich, who insists that for him painting is the opposite of ‘impossible’, offers four isolated images using four distinct techniques and four representational languages: the syntax of looking we use to reconcile them leaves meaning itself provisional.

Provisional painting is not about making ‘last paintings’, nor is it about the deconstruction of the medium. What the various works in the show share is neither style nor content, neither techniques nor materials, but rather a profound willingness to suspend closure, to leave painting open. Like Roland Barthes’ ‘Neutral’, they outplay the paradigm of their medium, and continually baffle it.

– Raphael Rubinstein

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“Big Band” (Paris, 2005)

In 2005, I curated a show at Galerie Filles du Calvaire in Paris. Titled “Big Band” it included paintings by Norman Bluhm, Richmond Burton, Karin Davie, Katharina Grosse, Shirley Jaffe, Carmengloria Morales, Bruce Pearson, Edouard Prulhière and Stanley Whitney. It was the last of five exhibitions (the others were curated by Vincent Pécoil, Petra Bungert, Catherine Perret and Olivier Mosset). A single catalogue was produced for all five shows. “Big Band” also appeared at the gallery’s Brussels space.

Stanley Whitney,
Between Black and White, 2003, oil on canvas, 170 x 170 cm. Courtesy Christine König Galerie, Vienna


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