Mary Corse: A Subtle Shift of Attention and Introspection

Installation View: Mary Corse, Pace Gallery, H Queen’s, Hong Kong (26 March–11 May 2019). © Mary Corse. Courtesy Pace Gallery. Photo: Boogi Wang.
Installation View: Mary Corse, Pace Gallery, H Queen’s, Hong Kong (26 March–11 May 2019). © Mary Corse. Courtesy Pace Gallery. Photo: Boogi Wang.
Mary Corse, Untitled (White Inner Band, White Sides), 1999. Glass microspheres in acrylic on canvas, 72 x 72 in (182.9 x 182.9 cm). © Mary Corse, courtesy of Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Lisson Gallery, and Pace Gallery.
Installation View, ‘Louise Bourgeois. My Own Voice Wakes Me Up,’ Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong, 2019. © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY. Courtesy The Easton Foundation and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: JJYPHOTO
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CoBo Social Chinese Abstraction Series

No doubt women artists the world over have other subjects to attend to beyond the questions of what it means to be a female artist in what continues to be a man’s world. No doubt many women artists would prefer to have their artwork considered beyond the perspective of how their experiences of gender finds expression in their works. No doubt female artists continue to balk at the questions on gender so rarely posed to their male counterpoints.

TEXT: Sarah Karacs
IMAGES: Courtesy of Pace Gallery

 

But the fact remains that these questions need to be raised, given the prevailing under representation of female artists globally. All the more so in Hong Kong, where research has shown that solo exhibitions of male artists far outweigh that of women. While local galleries are not impervious to criticism on this front, it is international galleries that were particularly shown up in the gender parity audit that spanned the last ten years in the city’s history.

So why this disparity still? Does the myth that male artists are somehow more legitimate still prevail into the 21st century? Or is it simply a matter of taste, with preferences for “masculine” styles and artistic voices easier to market to audiences than that of the feminine? And are the questions raised in the art of women still somehow too marginal to have widespread appeal on a par with their male peers?

These are questions worth raising as we enter the throws of art month, which this year interestingly has a rather more robust collection of women artists represented that in previous years, perhaps suggesting that a rebalancing in the preferential treatment the global art market affords male artists might well be underway. One particularly interesting artist enjoying her first Asia solo exhibition this month is the LA-based minimalist Mary Corse, whose legacy stretches back to the 1970s but who is now garnering international appeal, proving particularly palatable to the Chinese market.

 

Installation View: Mary Corse, Pace Gallery, H Queen’s, Hong Kong (26 March–11 May 2019). © Mary Corse. Courtesy Pace Gallery. Photo: Boogi Wang.
Installation View: Mary Corse, Pace Gallery, H Queen’s, Hong Kong (26 March–11 May 2019). © Mary Corse. Courtesy Pace Gallery. Photo: Boogi Wang.

 

The self-effacing artist has explored themes of perception and abstraction using limited palettes of acrylic paint and glass microspheres for decades, in ways that invite the viewer to explore subjective experience with painstaking minimalist subtlety. Owing to the refraction of light offered by the glass beads, each encounter with a work differs whichever way you look at it. Such is true in the eight new works featured in the show that boats a series of white multi-and inner-band paintings in a range of scales and shapes, alongside paintings incorporating red bands.

Most often associated with the male-dominated 1970s Light and Space movement, alongside the likes of James Turrell, Robert Irwin and Doug Wheeler, Corse tends to circumvent questions on gender in her interviews. And perhaps for good reason. Her artistic fixations lie outside the subject of gender, to the universal experience of perception in all its mutability. And tantalizing as it would be to interrogate her work through a feminist lens, perhaps doing so narrows the picture.

 

Mary Corse, Untitled (White Inner Band, White Sides), 1999. Glass microspheres in acrylic on canvas, 72 x 72 in (182.9 x 182.9 cm). © Mary Corse, courtesy of Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Lisson Gallery, and Pace Gallery.

 

This said, it might be interesting to consider her show next to the overt feminism of a Sprueth Mager’s all female show, Eau de Cologne, which resuscitates exhibit from 1985 featuring works from the likes of Jenny Holzer, Cindy Sherman, and Rosmarie Trockel curated by Monika Sprueth. The groundbreaking show solicited important conversations around power, art and gender that still reverberate today, with each artist challenging expectations around gender and expression, some more confronting than others. Among the works featured pieces from Rosemarie Trockel’s exploration on the hierarchies existing between arts and crafts and its implicit gender bias.

In works one might want to connect with Corse’ materiality-obsessed oeuvre, Trockel knits wool canvases, often creating panels, stretching the wool over a frame to mimic a canvas, to comment on the male-dominated nature of the art world at the time. In text accompanying the show, the gallery reasons that times for female artists are far better now that in the 80s, that more and more females artists are gaining representation and attention.

Indeed, in Hong Kong this month, besides Mary Corse, the late Louise Bourgeois enjoys a retrospective at Hauser & Wirth gallery. Featured are a series of work which demonstrate the breadth of creative exploration she went through in the course of her 70-decade-long career. Unlike Corse, the running themes connecting Bourgeois’ work don’t tie so easily together. She has worked in sculpture, installation, as a painter and printmaker. The Hong Kong show even features a series of works in hologram.

Though one can say that what connects the pair is their eagerness to interrogate inner world’s through their art. Corse’ work invites subtle shifts of attention and introspection as you explore the open spaces and delicate refraction from one canvas to the next. By contrast, Bourgeois alternated between abstraction and figuration to explore the mercurial tapestries of her own spirit.

 

Installation View, ‘Louise Bourgeois. My Own Voice Wakes Me Up,’ Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong, 2019. © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY. Courtesy The Easton Foundation and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: JJYPHOTO

 

 

Mary Corse
Mar 26, 2019 – May 11, 2019
Pace Gallery, H Queen’s, Hong Kong

 

 


 

Sarah Karacs is a seasoned journalist who has written for the likes of Der Spiegel, the South China Morning Post, The London Times, CNN and more, she holds a BA in Modern Languages from the University of Oxford and an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City University in London. She keeps a particularly keen eye on Hong Kong’s art world and has worked as an art and culture editor.

 

 

 
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