If not leaky, exactly, then the works in “Leaky Abstractions” are at least a little fuzzy around the edges, like a sharp stroke left out to dry, and begun to drip. In his new exhibition at Magenta Plains, Joshua Abelow riffs on the grid as both an archetypal structure in abstraction as well as a function of the digital world. Indeed, “leaky abstractions” is also a term in software engineering, popularized by Joel Spolsky in 2002 to refer to the way that sleek user interfaces occasionally give way to coding failures which disrupt or destroy—a website link which triggers a 404 error, for instance, or an app which freezes or glitches.
Across dozens of untitled earth-and-primary-toned oil-on-linen works from last year, Abelow’s medium to largescale works feature slightly wonky, furred blotches of color which frequently invert foreground and background. In one, dawn-colored sheaves of wan blues and drained oranges burst into a few rays of lemon yellow strokes. A few orderings hold across canvases—diagonal lines slice through orthogonal shapes in a handful of works, and diptychs appear in both landscape and portrait format—but none holds across all. Indeed, even the paintings’ commitment to abstraction itself wavers in a couple canvases, in which the letters of Abelow’s last name spill proudly across the bottom edge of the frame.
Joshua Abelow, Untitled, 2020. Oil on linen, 54 x 72 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Magenta Plains, New York.