UCL History of Art & the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art presents: Art in the Age of Real Abstraction

May 10, 2014

10am – 6pm

Speakers include: Sven Lütticken, Briony Fer, Tamara Trodd, Byron Peters, Catherine Spencer, Jo Applin, Marina Vishmidt, Moran Sheleg, and Stewart Martin.

Historic iterations of abstraction in the visual arts have traditionally been associated with terms such as the non-representational, the non-figurative, and the immaterial, in opposition to a loosely defined concept of realism. In the post-war period, however, both realism and abstraction became unstable concepts, deployed to refer to a range of diverse practices, from Nouveau Realisme to Art Informel to Abstract Expressionism. This conference will rethink the relation between realism and abstraction in the period between 1970 and the contemporary moment. Of particular concern are the impacts of two intersecting events: the advent of Neoliberalism and the dismantling of Modernism in art history.

‘Art in the Age of Real Abstraction’ seeks to investigate contemporary forms of abstraction through the analysis of different modes of representation, affectivity and performativity, drawing lines of continuity and addressing points of ambiguity between post-war abstraction and contemporary iterations. In recent critical discourse reification has been described as both a process of abstraction and as a figural process. On this view ‘Real Abstraction’ might be understood as the becoming-concrete of the abstract. As such ‘real abstraction’ calls for a rethinking of what the terms realism, figuration and abstraction might mean today.


Any queries about the conference should be directed to Rye Holmboe and Andrew Witt [rye.holmboe.09[at]ucl.ac.uk, andrew.witt.09[at]ucl.ac.uk]