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Current Exhibitions

Look Again! Form and Design Through Abstract Art

April 4, 2015 – October 21, 2018

Look Again! Form and Design Through Abstract Art

In this section of Look Again!, form and design are explored through a selection of mid and late-20th-century abstract paintings. Abstraction is the focus because in abstract painting, elements of form and design, such as line, shape, colour and texture, are often subjects in themselves.

These artworks explore concerns specific to the practice of painting, as well as to culture, society and the natural world. The artists consider the optical effects of colour, how colour is made, the shape of paintings, the shapes within paintings, and how shapes relate to other shapes. Some prioritize densely built textures while others work to reduce it to a minimum. For most artists, as abstract art scholar Roald Nasgaard has observed, they are also concerned to create objects in which “the intuitive and subjective directness of visual experience” becomes possible.

For several artists, the natural world was a point of departure for exercises in form and design. Hortense Gordon engaged in abstraction as a means to explore texture, colour and shape in ways that freed her to enjoy the process of painting and its traditional attachment to representation. For Marion Dale Scott, the world was seen anew through the microscope where microbial forms initiated her engagement with abstraction and became a means to bridge the worlds of art and science. A lifelong commitment to the Prairies shaped William Perehudoff’s art alongside his interest in participating in large-scale colour experiments which physically and optically enveloped the viewer.

The idea that form could be pursued for its own sake, and purposed to questions specific to perception and illusion, was a concern to Fernand Toupin and Jules Olitski. For Alex Janvier, abstract painting provided a way for him to both cross and disrupt the cultural divides of First Nations and Euro-Canadian societies while profiling the importance of abstract design in Aboriginal women’s quill work. Ron Bloore considered the possibilities of abstraction in both painting and sculpting by creating painted reliefs inspired by Inuit sculpture. The idea that abstract form and design could also be tools for social critique was a concern to Barbara Steinman. Her grid of black-and-white abstractions based on the image of rolling dice was a means to question the element of chance in the Province of Ontario's investments to establish a casino in Windsor as a means of economic recovery following the recession in the early 1990s.

These artists offer many opportunities to consider the richness and complexity of the visual experience in everyday life. Perception, illusion, the physical and optical effects of colour on the body and the eye, the natural world as point of departure, the impact of cross-cultural exchange, the invisible and visible — these are important questions that touch our lives continually in both abstract and non-abstract form and design.

WATCH the Look Again! video

Curated by Catharine Mastin

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Art Gallery of Windsor // 401 Riverside Drive West // Windsor, Ontario // N9A 7J1 Canada // 519-977-0013 // Fax 519-077-0776