Accommodating the Object: Elizabeth Yamin and Bosiljka Raditsa at The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation

A room with art on the wall

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Installation view. Photo courtesy of The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation

The exhibition Accommodating the Object of paintings by Elizabeth Yamin and Bosiljka Raditsa is presented by The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation in New York and was curated by William Corwin, who describes this exhibition as an intimate survey that offers the viewer an opportunity to compare the works of these two artists, who were active during the latter part of the twentieth century without attaining prominent careers.

When viewing Corwin’s sampling of Yamin and Raditsa’s paintings and drawings from differing periods in their careers, which began in the 1960s, I find myself reflecting on the complexities of historicity, genealogy, and pedigree—and those works and styles that, with time persist, yet come to sit in the margins of that history. Often, these practices come down to us as constituting a minor discourse—that is, they encompass skills, knowledge,  references, and practices not typically valued or emphasized institutionally. Do not take this term as being derogative–the French theorist Gilles Deleuze applied this term to the work of Franz Kafka. In the case of Yamin and Raditsa, I use it because their works subscribe to alternative criteria given their differing approaches to abstraction. Though their works are informed by AbEx’s Second Generation – these artists vacillate and do not seek to make truly abstract—self-referential paintings, yet neither do they want to surrender to traditional modes of representation. So, while Yamin and Raditsa’ are concerned with painting as a process and its materiality (which was AbEx’s dominant discourse), both seek to maintain a relationship to the observable world of objects and things. Yet, even within this project, they are stylistically very different,

As abstractionists, their work represents a willful distortion of these codes of representation, using paint to create referential events that are not simply mimetic but are expressive explorations of the medium itself. So, while both are engaged with the painterly process, Raditsa’s paintings can be characterized as more formalist, with a strong emphasis on color, surface, and shape and less on her source materials. In her painting Adrift #1 (2019), an eccentric, oblong form floats in a mottled sea of dark blues. The image fluctuates between being an aerial image of an island or merely a non-objective blob or cluster of brush strokes. In doing this, Raditsa uses paint to create events – phenomenal moments within a field of color.

In contrast, Yamin’s paintings maintain a stronger connection to the observable world of recognizable things. In the painting Loss, 2023 there is just enough illusionistic- residual still-life-like space as to see her forms as objects. Yet because they are not namable, what we are left with is a painting, which distorts, collages, and transforms the codes of mimesis into those of abstraction. As such, Yamin’s work appears less aesthetic and more expressionist, given that she uses paint to convey her emotional and subjective experiences and responses.

A painting of a guitar

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Elizabeth Yamin, Loss, 2023, oil on canvas, 48×32 inches. Photo: Kevin Noble

Both artists’ approaches reflect the continued influence of abstract painting predating AbEx when the critical discourses differentiating abstract art from abstraction were still evolving. Yet, Raditsa’s, more than Yamin’s, reflects the influence of the Abstract Expressionist abandonment of conventionally structured composition built up out of discrete and segregable elements. As such, without abandoning figure-ground relations, she seeks to advance the practice of producing undifferentiated fields, networks, or another image that existed in unstructured space. Despite this move away from traditional compositional structures, among many of their peers, Yamin’s works demonstrate that the concept of composition remains a significant and evolving aspect of abstraction. In her work, she seeks to preserve aspects of traditional Neo-classic and Romantic painting while surrendering adherence to the illusionism of appearances. This reflects the continued influence of Surrealism, Cubism, Expressionism, and other European Modernist movements.

Though rejecting naturalistic forms of representation, Yamin and Raditsa’s works reflect a continued belief on their part in art’s ability to either communicate the artist’s inner state in a universal visual language or to provoke in the viewer self-reflection on their being. Stylistically, their work aligns with the Post-War School of Paris as it moved towards more expressive, gestural, and lyrical forms of abstraction than the NY School, which came to emphasize gesture, color, and process. Yet, given their location within a minor discourse, which neither seeks innovation for the sake of innovation nor confrontation with tradition, the exhibition of Yamin and Raditsa’s works challenges the often-simplistic categorizations of “formalist” and “expressionist” that can sometimes obscure the diverse range of approaches that abstraction affords. Such optimism on their part reminds us of the diverse approaches to abstraction that lie beyond the existing historical narrative and its criteria.

A painting of a colorful object

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Bosiljka Raditsa, The Knots, 2023, oil on wood panel, 30×24 inch. Photo: Pau; Takeuchi

Accommodating the Object, an exhibition of paintings by Bosiljka Raditsa and Elizabeth Yamin. Curated by William Corwin, the exhibition is on view March 7 – May 4, 2024.

About the Writer: Saul Ostrow is an independent curator and critic. Since 1985, he has organized over 80 exhibitions in the US and abroad. His writings have appeared in art magazines, journals, catalogues, and books in the USA and Europe. In 2010, he founded along with David Goodman and Edouard Prulehiere, the not-for-profit Critical Practices Inc. as a platform for critical conversation and cultural practices. His book Formal Matters (selected and revised) published by Elective Affinities will be launched Fall, 2022. He served as Art Editor at Bomb Magazine, Co-Editor of Lusitania Press (1996-2004) and as Editor of the book series Critical Voices in Art, Theory and Culture (1996-2006) published by Routledge, London.

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