Sharon Butler on Non-objective art 

Courtesy of Sharon Butler

“Non-objective” art is a category of abstraction that doesn’t rely on even a remote visual relationship to the physical world for meaning. Originating in the early 1900s, the term was first applied to geometric abstraction – paintings by artists, such as Kandinsky, who sought to convey something metaphysical or spiritual rather than to depict the world around them. For purposes of this Dumbo Open Studios Guide, I have expanded the traditional definition of the term to include other types of contemporary art in which meaning may be conveyed through metaphor, material choices, and artist’s idiosyncratic processes. Sometimes text is incorporated, and, in painting, color and composition play key roles, but the underlying ideas are equally important. Practitioners of work that falls in this expanded category create work that gives the viewer themselves something visual to experience in the moment, as well as longer lasting ideas, propositions, and philosophical inquiries to chew over and discuss. 

April Hannah / 55 Washington Street, 714 
April uses common materials such as canvas, charcoal, acrylic paint, and plywood, combined with simple processes like scribbling, tracing, and outlining, to create complex systems through which she explores existential questions and the slippery nature of truth.  

Erica Newton / 20 Jay Street, 307 
Erica’s work, inscribed and painted on thick plaster slabs, deals with memories and longing. 

Fred Poisson / 68 Jay Street, 515 
Fred employs evocative color in large-scale watercolors that fuse graphic and organic approaches. Here “idea meets intuition,” the artist suggests, adding that these pieces are intended to be purely experiential. He lived in rural Block Island and abroad for many years, but he has recently returned to the city. 

Gabriele Evertz / 20 Jay Street, 303A
Gabriele Evertz explores the radiant energies of pigments in large-scale abstract paintings. Her recent paintings, made during the pandemic and after, focus on the materiality of paint and our shifting perceptions, particularly of color. 

Jesse Chun / 20 Jay Street, 309D

Jesse uses historical research to inform interdisciplinary work about time, language, and the nature of translation. Her elegant work, comprising graphite, pigment, vellum paper, pins and often incorporating light, video and installation, has been exhibited internationally, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto, the Nam June Paik Art Center in South Korea, SculptureCenter in New York, and The Drawing Center in New York, among other venues. 

Marsha Cottrell / 55 Washington Street, 258 
Marsha uses an archival pigment printer to layer abstract digital drawings on Mitsumata paper. The result is a subtle, seductive body of work that fuses abstract drawing and printmaking, painting and photography.  

N. Dash/ 55 Washington Street, 556 
Dash incorporates a wide range of materials – including earth from the desert, paint, plastic bottles, string, agricultural netting, strips of Styrofoam, cast-off cardboard, jute, and more – into complex, often multi-panel compositions that embody a commitment to the energy of transformation, specifically in relation to climate and care.

Sharon Butler / 20 Jay Street, 308

Finally, I hope you will stop by to see a group show I organized with gallerist Jennifer Baahng at 20 Jay Street, 308, called “Output.” We invited several artists to furnish work that considers different ideas about this notion. I’ll be exhibiting paintings, working drawings, and other objects that incorporate images of small digital drawings, made in a phone app and R.C. Baker, artist and editor-in-chief of the Village Voice, will present commercially printed projects. Look, too, for interesting work by Bill Albertini, a talented multi-discipline artist who makes mysterious 3-D printed objects, and an early digital painting by Jennifer Cho. 

About Sharon Butler

I’ve been represented by Jennifer Baahng Gallery, 79 Madison Ave., NYC since 2022. My exhibitions have been written about in numerous publications, including The Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, artcritical, The New Criterion, Time Out New York, Tussle, and New York Magazine. Please visit my website for links and more info.