Art Review | Alternatives of Abstraction: Li Tang Gallery Reimagines Abstract Art in the Contemporary Age

What happens when the figurative fails to convey the authenticity of our experiences? It is in the abstract that we often find ways to communicate the internalized, the emotional, and the intangible. On April 3, Li Tang Gallery opened “Abstraction, Distortion & Fragmentation”, the latest virtual group show by the New York-based gallery. Bringing together an array of international artists of various experiences and backgrounds, the gallery is showcasing what abstraction means to artists in the present day. 

With each work showcased individually as well as curated into a maneuverable virtual 3-D gallery, Li Tang’s curatorial team formulates a portrait of the power of abstraction. The multiroom experience undertakes a unique approach to curation pairing together large-scale works with smaller pieces that force the viewer to continually step closer and take a step back. In this constant flow of movement, new details of each work reveal themselves. The pairing of three-dimensional works with those with heightened flatness, the geometric versus the organic expressions, and the intense vibrant palettes slip into the monochromatic like the turning of a kaleidoscope all coming together to transform the virtual exhibition into a highly physical experience even through the screen. 

Among the 24 artists in the show, the exhibition features work such as Naomi Even-Aberle’s “Dis-oriental”. An abstract photograph documenting the artist’s performance. Embracing a sense of movement, her work uses the realm of martial arts as a language for discussing mounting issues of globalization. Realized in the black and white image, the piece evokes the frantic chaos of modernity that we experience on a personal and collective level. 

Conversely, Yang Mai’s new work “UpRise” creates a three-dimensional humanoid figure constructed of polo shirts and outstretched pieces of metal. Challenging the role of consumption, commercialism, and industrialization on our contemporary identities, she reconceives not only the individual in the face of modernity but assumptions of materiality in art making. 

In Bonam Kim’s pair of Untitled works, she constructs dollhouse miniatures from unassuming objects. A reflection on the isolation of the pandemic and divisiveness of our time, she toys with notions of object and space with a whimsical nostalgic edge. Portals into the past, the present, and the future, her sculptures playfully illuminate our desire to control our own stories. 

Kate Rusek presents three pieces as part of the exhibition from her 2022 collection of works; “Clavicle Divot (My Kestrel Heart)”, “If This Is A Game, I Never Learned the Rules (Choice, Chance, Change)”, and “An Architecture (For Minimal Intervention)”. Colorful and patterned amorphous shapes are constructed in delicate porcelain. Within the clay, she embraces the beauty of imperfections, cracks, and unusual forms. As exterior and interior become blurred in her amalgamated casts of found objects, the organic nature of her work poses questions about our physical body in an industrial world of the man-made.

Manifesting our primordial tensions, Kevin Costello’s works utilize assemblages of industrial materials to visualize the balance of the internalized fears and anxieties of our existence.  Through steel, concrete, and ink, works such as “Casket Ambient” transform his abstracted forms into the epitomized balance of strength and fragility.

The collection of artists showcased by Li Tang Gallery challenges not only our preconceptions of abstraction but its relationship to time, materiality, and the lineage of art. Witnessing a seemingly amalgamated cohort of artists from all walks of life, cultures, and countries exposes the universal language that exists in the contorted forms, swatches of color, and gestural mark-making of abstraction. We are left with an unseen, yet viscerally experienced, sense of connection. 

poster credit: Li Tang Gallery

Exhibition is currently on view at

Review by Shannon Permenter

Shannon Permenter is a freelance writer and art historian based in Arizona. After completing her Masters in History & Theory of Contemporary Art from the San Francisco Art Institute she has channeled her passion for the arts into a career helping artists, curators, and nonprofits share their work with the world.

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