It’s all about inspiration and the artist’s way of working in relation to other artists. Oranges and Sardines, curated by Gary Garrels, focuses on six contemporary abstract painters and highlights the works that influenced them. Garrels selected Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline Von Heyl and Christopher Wool. Each were given a gallery space within the Hammer’s main exhibition salon to basically curate an exhibition of works that inspired them. Within each artist’s gallery space one of their works was also hung so as to give a reminder of their style and a visual reference in comparison to the works that they picked.
Some of the comparisons were obvious (although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing), such as the relationship between Amy Sillman’s loosely geometric painting, “I”, and Howard Hodgkin’s more minimal abstract painting, “After Matisse”, both of which had a prominent horizontal line within the work. Others were surprising, like the placement of a Wade Guyton painting alongside Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s “Untitled (Go-Go Dancing Platform)”, a sterile blue platform with a border of lights, which really could function as a go-go dancing stage. Some fun visual, technical and conceptual comparisons can be made without knowing any background on the artists. The geometric shapes in Mary Heilmann’s works mirror many of the shapes in Francis Bacon’s “Figure with Two Owls” and Christopher Wool’s technique of using only black enamel contrasts interestingly with Philip Guston’s use of many colors, even though both works end up having a comparable middle tone and are similarly grey.
The concept of the exhibition is simple, although the conversations, as documented in the catalogue, are not. Without reading the catalogue, the show is a great opportunity to see some really wonderful works: Malcolm Morley’s “School of Athens”, Franz West’s “Lustrolle, c”, a series of Dieter Roth paintings, a couple brilliant Philip Gustons, among others, including the works by the 6 artists curating the show. Certainly visual comparisons can be made, but be sure to take a look at the catalogue to get some further insight.
(Images from top to bottom: Amy Sillman, U.S. of Alice the Goon, 2008, Oil on canvas. 84 x 93 in. (213.4 x 236.2 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co. (Image not included in catalogue.); Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2007, Enamel on linen. 120 x 96 in. (304.8 x 243.84 cm). Collection of Marguerite Steed Hoffman.; Mary Heilmann, Blood on the Tracks, 2005, Oil on canvas. 54 x 54 in. (137.16 x 137.16 cm). Collection of Edward Israel.)