Lisson Gallery

Lisson Gallery at Paris+ par Art Basel

7 October 2022


Olga de Amaral, Carmen Herrera, Shirazeh Houshiary, Joanna Pousette-Dart, Yu Hong

19 – 23 October
Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris, France
Booth D10

The five artists featured in this special presentation express the wide international scope of the gallery’s programme, bringing into view – through abstraction, mysticism, and gender politics – a global entanglement of multiple modernities.

Though situated in disparate social and historical contexts, these artists are united by their formal insistence on harnessing the painterly elements of materiality, color and form to address diverse personal, political, and transcendental concerns.

The title of the display, Sirens, takes its name from a multi-panel work by Yu Hong which in turn is inspired by a powerful feminine archetype in Greek mythology. Known to alter peoples’ fate with their alluring voices, the works gathered here can be viewed as strong female voices which, in different ways, challenge outdated presumptions and constitute new realities through their formal and affective power.

Widely known for her compositional use of crisp, geometric lines and playful, though restrained, color combinations, Carmen Herrera’s two architectonic works contrast planes of black and yellow in rhythmic symmetries, sensitizing viewers to the pleasures of visual perception. Encounter/Encuentro, 2011, realized on a diamond-shaped canvas, emphasizes the viewer’s bodily awareness by altering painting’s conventional spatial orientation to the wall. Associated with the Latin American concrete movement, and a pioneering figure of transnational modernist abstraction, Herrera’s distilled abstract geometric language evidences several decades of focused and persistent experimentation.

Informed by, though diverging from, the modernist search for reduction and purity, Joanna Pousette-Dart takes the reins of formalist abstraction into a more poetic and gestural arena. First Light, 2018-19, realized on a curvilinear wooden panel, calls attention to the masculinized conventions of hard-edge painting, while the swaying lines of various tones and thicknesses that segment the panel’s surface recall the harmonious interaction of organic forms in the natural environment. The smaller works of acrylic wash on paper, whose titles reference Italian geographies, overlay various hues of vivid color on top of one another, giving rise to compressed yet floating compositions that, akin to Herrera’s work, bring to mind formal themes of architecture.

Olga de Amaral draws on the aesthetics of non-Western craft traditions in navigating the fraught terrain of high abstraction. Trained in fiber art, the Colombian artist’s dense woven constructions materialize a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary melding of various art historical genealogies including post-minimalism, geometric abstraction and modernist textile design. Cuatro Paisajes (Modulo B), 1976-77, impresses upon viewers with its haptic three-dimensionality. A subtle feminist critique of Land art, the work’s materially accumulative surface, composed of earthy-hued patches of wool and horsehair, mimics the geological strata of the Colombian landscape. Meanwhile, in Alquimia, 2016 (which translates to alchemy), the incorporation of gold leaf speaks to histories of solar worship among indigenous communities in Latin America, wherein gold symbolizes the divine radiance of the Sun god.

Such mystical allusions to the sacred in Amaral’s works resonate with the spiritualist abstractions of Shirazeh Houshiary. The British-Iranian artist’s compositions evoke the metaphysical and cosmic through sublime depictions of radiant mists and clouds. In Likeness (of 2011), a light appears to beam from the center of an abstracted ethereal space, perhaps symbolizing a divine portal to an unknown dimension, while in Iris (of 2019), an enigmatic entity reaches towards a blue-tinted night sky. A faint membrane covers the surfaces of these two works, her ritualistic, hand-drawn latticed inscriptions referencing the meditative, transcendentalist function of fractal geometric patterns in both nature and art.

Themes of myth and the cosmos resurface in a suite of Yu Hong’s latest paintings. Each of the four works composing the series references strong feminine figures from Greek, Christian, and Chinese mythologies. All painted with gold backgrounds, akin to Amaral’s work, the paintings notably depart from the pure abstraction of the other works in the presentation, instead embracing the narrative power of figurative modes of representation, as seen in both Renaissance and Chinese social realist painting. The depicted mythical figures powerfully disintegrate human-animal distinctions, putting into question presumed ecological hierarchies, while also playing on the narrowness of the arched canvases to convey physical and narrative movements that exceed the painted frame. Thus, while Yu Hong may rely on figurative painterly approaches, her otherworldly, uncompromising female subjects approach the shores of conceptual abstraction.

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