Relevant: Abstraction from GRAM’s Collection

Sep 6, 2019 — Jan 5, 2020

Relevant: Abstraction from GRAM’s Collection is an exhibition guest-curated by Juana Williams, Exhibitions Curator at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (UICA). GRAM occasionally invites guest curators to work with GRAM’s collection in order to bring fresh ideas and perspectives to our members and visitors.

For Relevant, Williams has assembled eleven abstract paintings and works on paper from GRAM’s permanent collection, most created by artists a half-a-century or more after abstraction’s invention in the early 20th century. During the 1950s through the 1970s, when most of the works in the exhibition were created, artists were evaluating whether abstraction could still be a relevant form of expression. These decades saw exciting innovation in the visual arts – often in negative response to abstract painting, which some saw as elitist and outmoded. The art in Relevant demonstrates how abstraction still proved to be a stimulating arena for artists, and capable of personal expression in a variety of unique approaches.

A native of Detroit, curator Juana Williams earned a Master of Fine Arts at Wayne State University and held positions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and the Detroit Institute of Arts before joining the UICA in 2018. Relevant is on view concurrently with the UICA’s exhibition SPECTRA, also curated by Williams. While Relevant focuses exclusively on two-dimensional 20th century abstraction, SPECTRA features works of contemporary abstract and non-representational art that break from traditional mediums and concepts and provides insight into these alternative modes of expression. Conceived as two parts of a whole, Relevant and SPECTRA examine abstract art through historical and contemporary lenses. Together, they show how abstraction has remained relevant for over 100 years by both addressing its own histories and legacies and by continually adapting and diversifying with the times.