Angel Otero in a group exhibition Inherent Structure at the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University

Angel Otero, Two Evening Moons, 2017
Oil skins on fabric, 122 x 136 x 5 in.
Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong
Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

Historically, abstract painting has been associated with chance gesture, impulse, and aesthetic purity. With Inherent Structure, Michael Goodson, Senior Curator of Exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University, brings together 16 contemporary artists whose works reflect not just formal conventions exclusive to painting, but also the artists’ particular material, psychological, and sociopolitical concerns. The exhibition, on view at the multidisciplinary art space through August 12, 2018, will fill the gallery spaces with more than 60 artworks created over five decades.

Among the exhibiting artists are Laura Owens and Richard Aldrich, an Ohio State alum and former Wex staff member. In their respective works, there is a confrontation between formal conventions of painting and expressions of self-reflection. For Aldrich it’s between mark-making and psychological operations; for Owens, it’s teasing irony and humor out of the processes of making and displaying art. Cut from the walls of a previous exhibition at the Wattis Institute, Owens’s series of custom wallpaper on panels contains phone numbers to which viewers can text questions to receive audio responses of text-to-speech quips and found recordings.

Sam Gilliam, Drape Work, 1970

Acrylic on canvas, Approx. 108 x 108 in.
Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA
Gift of the Roger H. Ogden Collection

Thomas Scheibitz and Amy Sillman interrogate abstraction’s faculty to depict physical space that objects and figures, real or uncanny, might inhabit. Challenging the traditional form and, with that, the definition of painting, Sam Gilliam forgoes the practice of stretching his canvases, instead allowing them to drape, and Angel Otero builds works from skins of dried paint and shreds of canvas.

Comics, band fliers, decorative prints, and other forms of popular visual culture inform the ‘zine-like nature of the works by Arturo Herrera and the bespoke patterned paintings by Ruth Root, as well as the riotous, colorful canvases by Carrie Moyer, a cofounder of the agitprop art project Dyke Action Machine!, and the allover printed works by Rebecca Morris, author of “Manifesto: for Abstractionists and Friends of the Non-Objective.”

Pulling from source materials imbued with personal narratives, Eric N. Mack fashions his compositions from worn or discarded textiles, Sam Moyer combines stone countertops extracted from their domestic settings with delicately painted canvases, and Kevin Beasley drenches housedresses, t-shirts, and du-rags from a discount store near his studio in Harlem in resin to shape gestural, even painterly, slabs.

Abstraction is uniquely autobiographical for Channing Hansen, who composes vibrant knitted paintings determined entirely by an algorithm built from his DNA sequencing, and Zachary Armstrong, who will create a site-specific installation for Inherent Structure by covering the lower lobby wall in an allover print based on his brother’s childhood drawing.

In contrast, Stanley Whitney has spent his venerable career pursuing the formal structures of abstraction and the sheer force of color. The resulting paintings allure viewers with their dynamic optical effects.

Less an exhaustive survey of contemporary abstract painting than a bringing together of extraordinary works by exceptional artists, Inherent Structure encourages viewers to meditate on the underlying sources and influences of abstraction by providing varied and multiple manifestations of it. In doing so, it affirms abstraction as vital, expressive, and unending.

Kevin Beasley, In my other dream I imagined a landscape, 2017

House dresses, kaftans, t-shirts, socks, du-rags, altered garments, altered fitted caps, altered bed sheets, butterfly pin, and resin, 82 x 178 x 4 1/2 in.
Collection of Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger
Courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York
Photo: Jason Wyche

Participating Artists

Richard Aldrich, Zachary Armstrong, Kevin Beasley, Sam Gilliam, Channing Hansen, Arturo Herrera, Eric N. Mack, Rebecca Morris, Carrie Moyer, Sam Moyer, Angel Otero, Laura Owens, Ruth Root, Thomas Scheibitz, Amy Sillman, Stanley Whitney

“Inherent Structure” continues through Aug. 12 at the Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N. High St. Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission: $8; $6 for senior citizens and Ohio State University faculty and staff members; free for center members, college students and those 18 and younger; free for all from 4 to 8 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month. Call 614-292-3535, or visit