Properties of Ground: Post (post) Painterly Abstraction | Michael Crabb and Tom Stephens

March 2022

The artwork in this exhibition is foregrounded by the artist’s practice, making the experience of painting paramount to the outcome. Post-painterly abstractionists rejected the mysticism of abstract expressionism and their preconceived references to the external world. They created a purely factual kind of art which functioned in terms of the basic elements of the medium itself; form, colour, texture, scale, composition and so on. Two abstract process painters, well known in the Sarasota/Bradenton/Tampa Area, Michael Crabb and Tom Stephens show their works in this very Post (post) Painterly exhibition focused on the studio experience. These painters emphasize the physical act of painting as an essential part of the finished work, taking precedence over content or representation.

Michael Crabb graduated from Ringling in 2001, and has supported Sarasota artists by self-publishing a visual arts magazine, WORKINGTITLE, and creating Locke + Crabb Gallery in downtown Sarasota. His work captures formal elements of gridding, surface texture, and mark-making abstracted with transitions of blocked color, collage, assemblage, and found object. Charcoal or pencil drawings may be offset by hard-edge blocked screen prints, and found Baltic birch wood blocks are screen printed with the mark-making of the artist’s pinky finger. Crabb’s larger works include vintage comic strips (with an affinity for Calvin and Hobbes and Popeye cartoons). Each work embodies charm, ambiguity, and an alluring complexity of expression.

Tom Stephens artworks focus entirely on process. He starts with no preconceived notion of the final image or content. His practice is based on formal decisions and intuition, continually adding and subtracting fabric, layers of paint, fine-tuning color and composition, until he is satisfied.