There’s no indication that Front Room Gallery’s Constructing Abstraction exhibition was meant to be an optical vortex of sorts, but it certainly makes for a jostling viewing experience that feels like a temperature check for the power of pattern and color in contemporary abstraction.
Curated by Williamsburg veteran Melissa McCaig-Welles and Front Room gallerist Kathleen Vance, the group show combines familiar faces from various local art scenes (Williamsburg, street art … ) along with others who approach recent art history with a sense of reverence.
Local legend R. Nickolas Kuszyk has broken free of his trademark robot imagery to give us a lattice of striped shapes in “Untitled Grid” (nd), which is influenced by Stuart Davis but thoroughly contemporary in palette and energy. Meanwhile, Chris Uphues, who’s best known for his street hearts, gives us clusters — he calls them spheres — of his kawaii imagery that could pass as the monochrome lovechildren of Mike Kelley and Takashi Murakami.
Most of the works on display share an interest in accumulation, and even works with recognizable imagery, like paintings by Jesse Lambert and Uphues, play with distortion through layering and line. Lambert overlays dream-like imagery on a petri dish of color, suggesting his affection for the Pattern and Decoration movement and its visual trickery.
Peter Fox, a longtime Williamsburg artist, provides the shows biggest visual jolt with his “Pyramid Scheme,” and, placed next to Andrea von Bujdoss’s Maya Hayuk–like symmetrical canvases, the work almost appears classical and controlled in tone and palette.
Most of the artists seem to tip their hats to artists before them and in the process build on solid foundations. But the show’s inclusion of artists that seem to share many (maybe too many) similarities doesn’t do the work any favors.