Review: Diverse Views of Abstract Art at the Oak Park Art League

The current exhibition at the Oak Park Art League, Abstracted Abstractions, explores the diverse elements of abstract art. On display are 59 works by 39 artists that include a wide range of media—paintings, photography, mixed media, collage, and drawings.

Although abstract art has been around for almost a hundred years, it continues to evolve with each passing decade. Arshile Gorky, whose body of work was crucial to the emergence of Abstract Expressionism, gave one of the best summations about abstract art when he stated, “Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an exploration into unknown areas.”

Cleora Stanley-CTS, Genesis I
Cleora Stanley-CTS, Genesis I, 2022. Acrylic, ink and markers. Photo courtesy Oak Park Art League.

And keeping Gorky’s quote in mind, a number of works in this exhibition do exactly that. One of the strengths of this exhibition is that each of the works stand on their own as an individual entity, yet they all come together as a whole. We can see the dynamics of abstract art at play—many of the works convey a sense of motion, energy, and the expansion of space and time.  A good example of this are the two works, Genesis I and Infinity Universe, by Cleora Stanley-CTS. In these two works the viewer cannot help but feel a sense of exuberant motion taking place. The lines and shapes are so full of energy that they seem ready to burst forth from the canvas. In the end, her works resemble an endless celestial expanse that goes beyond space and time.

Marzena Bukowska’s paintings create a mind-expanding effect as she explores the mysteries of the unseen world through her dramatic infusion of colors and shapes. In Nature vs. Nurture: Debate and in Secrets of the Universe, Bukowska seems to investigate elements of quantum physics—uncovering the properties of matter and energy that are in constant motion. The intensity of her colors and her bold use of lines makes us enter a world at the atomic and subatomic level.

Marzena Bukowska, Nature vs. Nurture: Debate
Marzena Bukowska, Nature vs. Nurture: Debate, 2022. Acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy Oak Park Art League.

Several works in this exhibition also express various states of emotion. Marisol Cervantes’ A Field For Lovers conveys feelings of euphoria and nervous excitement that are often felt when love first blooms between two people. And the two works by Anne Worth—Disintegration and Interplay—display the more turbulent emotions of passion and anxiety.

Also on display are photographs that don't have an immediate association with the physical world. Joseph Barabe’s images of San Juan create a sense of mystery and we may experience that uncomfortable feeling of not knowing exactly what the photos represent. Even though his photos may leave us feeling unsettled, there is a beauty to the mystery in his works because of the shapes and textures that he is able to capture.  This is equally true with Carma Lynn Park’s painterly photograph, Delicious. In Park’s work, there are brooding elements at play—at first glance we are not exactly sure what the photo is about—is it a scene found in nature or an extreme close-up of a detail found on some object? But in the end it doesn’t matter because we can appreciate the subtle movement of colors merging together and creating an eerie beauty.

Carma Lynn Park, Delicious
Carma Lynn Park, Delicious, 2021. Photograph. Photo courtesy of the artist.

It is worth noting that there are a few works that are small in scale (as small as 8x12 inches) which creates a sense of intimacy for the viewer. Good examples of this are April is the Cruelest Month by Janet Talbot, Late Night by John Brodeck and White Sand X by Fran Sampson. These works although small in size create an immediate impact due to the artists’ command of color, brushstrokes and texture. They invite the viewer to take a closer look.  And by looking more closely, one’s interpretation of the work can change with each new viewing.

And lastly, many of the works have elements of playfulness. Looking at works such as Rhoda Bernstein’s Look in Every Window and Jeff Anderson’s For You (The Songbird Keeps Singing) reminds us of that child-like joy we all experienced when we created art as children—when we discovered the joy of using different colors and creating different shapes—in essence letting our imaginations go wild.

Jeff Anderson, For You
Jeff Anderson, For You (The Songbird Keeps Singing), 2023. Acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy: Oak Park Art League.

Abstracted Abstractions is an engaging exhibition because it invites us to look more deeply inward and explore undiscovered territories within ourselves. The works on display also challenge us to adjust our perception and look at the world in a new light.

This exhibition will be on display through May 11. The Oak Park Art League is located at 720 Chicago Ave. in Oak Park. Hours: Tuesday thru Friday 1-5pm and Saturday 1-4pm. Admission is free. For more information visit their website or call 708-386-9853.

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Thomas Wawzenek