Discussing abstraction in art is like trying to stare at the sun. No matter how long we do it, despite the beauty of the thing, somehow we are grasping at straws. Most of us can agree that sunlight makes us happy. Some of us are still covered in SPF 45. None of us can avoid the occasional blinding glance toward the unknowable. To address the thing head on is to lose track of it. This is about vitality, and something indefinable. Yet we are a society of incurable answer seekers. Sitting in my apartment in New York, I will not deny my participation in a culture obsessed with definition and with exploring, categorizing, and shelving knowledge. We build Hubble telescopes, Mars Landers, and machines that play Jeopardy.
Perhaps I'm a walking cliché; when I was six, I fell in love with a painting by Rothko at the Met. I was awestruck then for the same reason I still visit the third floor of the modern wing. I caught in a glimpse something that comes before language. We can talk about the mystical and sublime currents of abstraction. From the Bauhaus to late-night debate at the Cedar Bar, this concept is hardly new. Unfortunately, much of this work is caught in the struggle between "high" and "low" culture. This isn't to make it any less awesome. Like it or not, my favorite painters from the 1940s are all surrounded by velvet ropes.
What gives the sun its cultural staying power? Instability. Cultures shift and adapt, new generations spell out similar words with new alphabets. It is in this spirit that I introduce Chris Mendoza, Maya Hayuk, Hisham Bharoocha, and Mark Warren Jacques. Though the four come from a variety of backgrounds, they share subculture and sensitivity. Whether it's music, skateboarding, or graffiti, their variety of influences emphasize an outspoken, down to earth creativity. Subliminal Sunlight is about an organic beauty, one that doesn't shy away from the complex, often confusing realities of everyday life.
Howard Hurst is an independent curator and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. He is senior editor of the Artcards Review art blog and a contributing writer to The Art Economist magazine.