Robert Orchardson, Endless Façade (detail), 2011, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Robert Orchardson

Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver

Robert Orchardson, Endless Façade (detail), 2011, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Abstraction’s star has risen once again, if not reached a peak over the last round of biennials. However, institutional exhibition value is not tantamount to resolving the crisis of legitimation that has trailed practitioners of abstraction almost since its inception. That legacy is not lost on Robert Orchardson, who seems to thrive on the search for motivation. While many contemporary artists exploit the tension between logos and form (consider Tauba Auerbach’s Alphabet motifs) or try to press the gray area between design and abstraction into some kind of socially active site (Liam Gillick’s platforms), Orchardson descends into the contingent materiality of even the most saccharine and nostalgic of citations.

In the 1910s and ’20s through the ’60s, abstraction was rationalized in several ways: as a declaration of new horizons in Malevich’s 1915 Black Square; as a movement motivated

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