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Pace Gallery (London) is pleased to announce Creating Abstraction, a group exhibition that brings together seven female artists whose experimental approach to material and engagement with Modernism has pushed the boundaries of abstraction. Co-curated with Carla Chammas, this exhibition centres on the idea of multi-disciplinarity as a means of exploring abstraction.

On view across the full expanse of Pace’s recently opened Hanover Square gallery, Creating Abstraction looks at the ways in which various Modernist movements were disseminated across the world and interpreted by artists from Britain, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Portugal, Singapore, and the United States. This exhibition creates dialogues between the sculptures, paintings, textiles, works on paper, video, photography, and installations of Carla Accardi (1924-2014), Leonor Antunes (b. 1972), Yto Barrada (b. 1971), Saloua Raouda Choucair (1916-2017), Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), Kim Lim (1936-1997) and Louise Nevelson (1899-1988). Despite vastly disparate nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds, there is a shared sensibility between these artists who each found inspiration in Modernism’s non-hierarchical approach to material, and abstraction’s rich capacity for multi-disciplinary experimentation.

A pioneer of abstraction in Lebanon, Saloua Raouda Choucair’s innovative artistic practice was inspired by mathematics, architecture, poetry and Islamic design, encompassing sculpture, painting, drawing, jewellery, and textile. The modular structure of her sculptures, such as Poem (1972-74) or Poem (Ramlet el Beida) (1966/2013) which, like the stanzas of Arabic poetry can stand alone or be presented as a whole, have a particular resonance with the sculptures of Singaporean-British artist, Kim Lim. Lim’s practice, which traversed wood, bronze, marble, stone, fibreglass, aluminium, slate, and ink primarily took the form of sculpture and printmaking. Like Choucair, Lim took immense inspiration from the aesthetics of ancient Eastern art, travelling extensively across the Middle East and Asia throughout her life. In works such as River Run II (1996-97) or Syncopation 2 (1995) Lim’s elegant fusion of totemic sculptural forms with a distinctly Modernist aesthetic is particularly apparent.

Lim and Choucair’s prints, works on paper, and paintings have a shared sensibility with the work of Italian artist Carla Accardi, who’s avant-garde practice paved the way for many avant-garde movements in Italy. Best known for her experiments in sicofoil, a transparent plastic material, Accardi’s sculptures and paintings investigate both the formal and spatial effect of line, shape, and gesture. The graphic quality of Accardi’s work, such as Fondo Rosso (1959) or Segni Grigi (1986), resonates strongly with Choucair’s dynamic gouache paintings on paper.

By painting the elements of her sculptures entirely black, white, or gold, Nevelson erased their former functions, focusing attention on their form.

An innovator of the Direct Carving technique and the first sculptor to pierce their forms, Barbara Hepworth is recognized as a master of British Modernism. Though most commonly recognised for her groundbreaking sculptures, which included bronze, stone, wood and string, her practice also encompassed painting, lithograph, collage, and drawing.

The monochrome, totemic compositions of Three Forms (Family Group) (1965) and Two Forms (1934) create an enchanting dialogue with Louise Nevelson’s sculptures and collages. Unlike Hepworth, Nevelson’s artistic practice was additive, assembling materials found in the streets surrounding her studio to construct sculpture, collage, and installation. By painting the elements of her sculptures entirely black, white, or gold, Nevelson erased their former functions, focusing attention on their form. In Untitled (1971), a monumental monochromatic black sculpture, Nevelson nestles forms within a larger structure akin to a cabinet of curiosities.

By including both twentieth century artists who were instrumental in the development of abstraction, and contemporary artists – Yto Barrada and Leonor Antunes – Creating Abstraction considers the legacy of Modernism today. Barrada’s work in textile, photography and video speaks at once to the multifaceted, multidisciplinary histories of Modernism and to her own personal landscape. In Untitled (indigo grey) (2021) Barrada references the hard-edge abstraction and the Modernist history of the ‘grid’ while also drawing from her own daily life – the velvet is dyed using homemade pigments forged from the plants in her Tangier studio garden. Similarly, Antunes’s research-based practice actively responds to the histories of overlooked female Modernists, anni #26 I (2020) is a reimagining of Anni Albers’s abstract weavings in glittering brass. Antunes’s installation, indirect lighting (group 2) (2021), which extends from floor to ceiling with ceramic sculptural pieces spiralling in space, echoes the modular sculpture of Choucair, Lim, and Nevelson.

In bringing together an array of work by these seven artists, Creating Abstraction offers a window into each individual’s complex, layered, radical work as well as the broader context of their practice.

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