Tomma Abts at the Art Institute of Chicago | David Zwirner
A detail from a painting by Tomma Abts, titled Schwiddo, dated 2008.

Tomma Abts

Art Institute of Chicago
Through February 18, 2019

Following its critically-acclaimed debut at the Serpentine Galleries in London earlier this year, Tomma Abts travels to the Art Institute of Chicago. Surveying more than a decade of paintings and a small selection of bronze casts, the show has been curated by James Rondeau and Lekha Hileman Waitoller in Chicago, with Lizzie Carey-Thomas at the Serpentine.

Abts won the Turner Prize in 2006 and has since presented her work in major solo exhibitions at museums including the New Museum in New York (2008) and Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2011). Her enigmatic work is guided by intuition: while Abts’s canvases have maintained the same format, with rare exceptions, for the past twenty years, the artist approaches each abstract composition without preconceived ideas. In paintings that often take years to complete, evolution is evidenced by ridges and uneven surfaces caused by the methodical overpainting and reworking of the image. Reviewing Abts’s New Museum exhibition for The New York Times, Ken Johnson observed, "The layered, textured paint shows that she doesn’t just translate an image that she sees complete in her mind’s eye. Rather she arrives at her compositions circuitously, through trial and error. The transcendental image emerges from a human, terrestrial process of searching and discovering. The cerebral is balanced by the sensual." The artist’s considered approach also applies to the design of her exhibitions, in which the works are carefully sequenced and spaced in response to the surrounding architecture—a consideration that Johnson called "exhilarating." 

The artist has also collaborated on the design of a major new monograph accompanying the show, with essays by Rondeau, president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago, art historian Kate Nesin, and Juliane Rebentisch, a Berlin-based professor of philosophy and aesthetics.

Cover Image: Tomma Abts, Schwiddo, 2008 (detail)

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