German artist Tomma Abts (b. 1967) is known for her complex paintings and drawings, the subject of which is ultimately the process of their creation. Working in accordance with a self-determined and evolving set of parameters, the artist enacts a series of decisions, which results in compositions that are intuitively constructed according to an internal logic. While abstract, her paintings are nevertheless illusionistic, rendered with sharp attention to details—such as shadows, three-dimensional effects, and highlights—that defy any single, realistic light source. As she has noted, “Making a painting is a long-winded process of finding a form for something intuited … and making whatever shape and form it takes as clear and precise as possible.”1
Born in 1967 in Kiel, Germany, Abts studied at Hochschule der Künste, in Berlin, from 1988 to 1995. Since 1995, the artist has lived and worked in London. The artist has been represented by David Zwirner since 2005, and had her debut exhibition at the gallery in New York in 2008. In 2014, Abts presented a new body of work at David Zwirner in New York. It coincided with Tomma Abts: Mainly Drawings, the inaugural exhibition at the new Aspen Art Museum in Colorado, which surveyed the artist's extensive drawing practice, showcasing over forty works from 1996 to the present. The artist’s third solo presentation with the gallery and her first exhibition in New York since 2014 was on view in 2019.
Abts’s work has been the subject of major international exhibitions, most recently, in 2018, at The Art Institute of Chicago and the Serpentine Gallery, London. Other prominent institutions that have hosted solo shows of the artist's work include the Aspen Art Museum (2014); Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2011); New Museum, New York (2008; traveled to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles); Kunsthalle Basel (2005); and the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2005).
Abts’s work has also been included in major international exhibitions such as the Berlin Biennale (2006); Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2004); and Istanbul Biennial (2001), among others.
Abts was the 2006 recipient of the prestigious Turner Prize, awarded by Tate Gallery, London. Her work is represented in public collections internationally, including The Art Institute of Chicago; Baltimore Museum of Art; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; Tate Britain, London; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
1 Tomma Abts and Vincent Fecteau, “Some Similarities.” Parkett 84 (December 2008), p. 35.