Joshua Abelow portrait - image courtesy of the artist

Joshua Abelow

United States 1976

Abstract Art

Joshua Abelow
Joshua Abelow
United States
June 30, 2016
Ok, I know it's so damn corny to quote somebody just to describe yourself, let alone Confucius, but this quote says all about my relationship with Widewalls, so forgive me for doing this: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Am I forgiven?

The expression of artistic skills and talent has been used to portray the world around us through the eyes of the artist ever since the conception of art as we know it. As much as the external world is palpable and affects the senses, the inner struggles and character nuances are as influential, if not more so, forcing many to turn inwards when expressing through art. Rarely, though, do artists use the opportunity to mock their own profession as well as the impurity of their character as someone who represents it, leaving such a mark for the world to see and participate in. Such is the art of Joshua Abelow, an American artist versed in painting, drawing, photography, and poetry, expressing his concern with the relation between text and image in his work while exploring the self-examination that consumes him as a man of art.

Joshua Abelow - Abelow on Delancey, 2013 (Left) / Untitled, 2012 (Right) oil james fuentes new 2010 linen paper burlap contact
Joshua Abelow – Abelow on Delancey, 2013 (Left) / Untitled, 2012 (Right)

Realization of Color

Born in the United States in 1976, Joshua Abelow grew up in Frederick, Maryland, looking at the abstract paintings that his grandmother, who is also an artist, used to make. Expressing his own talent and artistic tendencies, Abelow received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. It was during the college years that one of his professors had noticed his skill with color and while Abelow thought of it more as an insult of a sort at that point, he truly was – and still is – a master of the element. His work during this time was in the realm of intuition and natural reaction to the colors themselves and it took a different direction once he started to work for Ross Bleckner.

Having been introduced to the work of Bleckner within the library of School of Design, his move to New York in 1999 was followed by a big change in how he sees the painting creation process. Applying a more thought-out, systematic approach to painting, Abelow started seeing it as a scientific procedure in a way, and though it may not be as fun and spontaneous, it produces a more striking result. Marking the color codes on the back of the work, Joshua Abelow would sometimes even note the steps that he took in order to reach the final moment of the painting, giving the viewers yet another artwork within the same piece.

Often painting on burlap, Abelow received comments in the past regarding the look of his works compared between seeing them within gallery walls and as images on the screen. The material offers a certain roughness, even a dimensionality as the painting can be felt when viewed in person rather than being seen on screen which flattens the look and makes it lose that feeling of space. Although Abelow likes that these two differentiate, Joshua Abelow is fully aware of the necessity for “existing online” as a means of participating in the contemporary art scene.

Abelow’s move to New York was followed by a big change in how he sees the painting creation process

Joshua Abelow - Untitled (Abstraction NUU), 2012 (Left) / Untitled (Abstraction FNUU), 2012 (Right) new york 2010 linen gallery oil paper james fuentes burlap exhibition
Joshua Abelow – Untitled (Abstraction NUU), 2012 (Left) / Untitled (Abstraction FNUU), 2012 (Right)

Relationship of the Internet and Art

Yet another area of art that has been influenced by Bleckner, relationship between art and computers, in general, wasn’t a “love at first sight” scenario for Abelow. Not having a computer during his college education, Joshua Abelow first conjunction of technology and art happened during his employment for Ross Bleckner that started in 1999. Abelow quickly realized how the two practices can enrich one another, and, in his own words, it’s hard to “imagine an artist who doesn’t have images of their work as JPEGs. It would be unheard of. You wouldn’t be able to participate in the contemporary art world.” Joshua Abelow himself has embraced this merge and uses the internet to stay active among his fans and colleagues alike.

Perhaps one of the defining elements of Abelow’s practice is communication, and it lies not only in the connection to the people following his work but in the work itself. Expressing himself in his paintings quite literally by using words in some of his pieces, he couldn’t help but reference the realm of art on the internet that is practically a necessity in contemporary times. BLOG ME. made in 2013 directly tackles such state of things, as most of the photos taken do end up being tagged on one blog or the other. However, it doesn’t represent a slow walk towards the end of practical art that existed for so long; in Joshua Abelow’s opinion, there always will be people willing to make art with their own hands, never giving technology the dominion over the craft.

Abelow realized how art and technology can enrich one another

Joshua Abelow - Installation view at Frieze Gallery New York 2012 oil paper fuentes james burlap gallery 2010 linen contact
Joshua Abelow – Installation view at Frieze New York, 2012

Art Blog Art Blog Had Stopped Being Updated on March 30, 2015

Believing more in a balance of things, at least when it comes to the internet and art, Abelow’s mixture of the two is largely represented by his dedicated involvement in his blog titled ART BLOG ART BLOG. Although its content had stopped being updated on March 30, 2015, its entirety can be viewed even today, making it an “online art piece” in its own right. Filled with exhibition logs, installation views, poems, and a myriad of other logs and items, the blog was a way for Abelow to combine, in yet another way, communication, art, and the internet, updating the archive almost daily.

Joshua Abelow’s blog was a way for Abelow to combine communication, art, and the internet

Joshua Abelow - Untitled, 2013 (Left) / Blog Blog, 2013 (Right) oil paper fuentes james burlap gallery 2010 linen
Joshua Abelow – Untitled, 2013 (Left) / Blog Blog, 2013 (Right)

Style of a Stick Man

An unmistakable and unavoidable part of Abelow’s practice are his “self-portraits” depicting a stick man. Sporting a top hat and often an erection, his stick man portrayals stand not only for himself as an artist, but for the whole art scene filled with personas looking for attention and recognition. Known to be quite candid in his work, the stick man, never quite upright and often with a cocked elbow, reflects upon the personality of the artist. The figure is sometimes followed up by repeated words or numbers, and Abelow likes to draw a parallel between the frustrations of life and the frustrations of being an artist, which is where the inspiration is coming from. Relieving himself of the stress that painting for weeks imposes, Joshua Abelow’s drawings are, in fact, undermining his own painting practice.

Abelow’s stick man figure reflects upon the personality of the artist

Joshua Abelow - I Miss You Bitch J, 2008 - Self-Portrait, 2012 oil paper fuentes james burlap gallery 2010 linen exhibition
Joshua Abelow – I Miss You Bitch J, 2008 (Left) / Self-Portrait, 2012 (Right)

Undermining Its Own Seriousness

The self-portrait inclination doesn’t find its limit in the stick man in Abelow’s creation process. Humorously self-critical, Joshua Abelow mocks the very role of the artist in his doings and it can take on the wildest of shapes on paper. Some are even depicting a Satan popping out of his backside and it definitely creates an odd relationship between painting and drawing both for the artist and the viewer. Given Abelow’s obvious uncanny ability to manipulate color, it could be said that his drawings are undermining the seriousness of his paintings, thus proving the point he set out to make.

Whether you see it as strange, funny, or simply something new, there’s an undeniable allure that glues you to Abelow’s portfolio. Doing the opposite of what most would expect, he demonstrates great skill in his painting output only to question, even mock the very purpose of it in his drawings. With a deft understanding of color and abstraction on one hand and a rigid sincerity and humorous approach on the other, Joshua Abelow makes for an unusual appearance on the contemporary art scene, one that is bound to stick with you long after you’ve left the gallery walls.

Joshua Abelow lives and works in New York, NY.

Featured image: Joshua Abelow – portrait, photo courtesy of the artist
All other images via

YearExhibition TitleMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2016Motion Pictures Tif Sigfrids, Los AngelesSolo
2016Running Witches in Chelsea James Fuentes temporary space, New YorkSolo
2016Freddy James Fuentes, New YorkSolo
2016Foundation Barbin Presents: REDUX (Sort of) Kai Matsumiya, New YorkGroup
2015Good Morning BFA Boatos Fine Arts, Sao Paulo, BrazilSolo
2015Running Witches Freddy, Harris, NYSolo
2015PaintersNYC Paramo, Guadalajara, MexicoGroup
2015Second Show EDDYSROOM, Brooklyn, NYGroup
2015Intimacy in Discourse: Reasonable-Sized Paintings Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, NJGroup
2015Anxiously Attached Essex Flowers, New York, NYGroup
2015826NYC Exhibition & Auction David Zwirner, New York, NYGroup
2015Popular Panorama 2 Secret Recipe, Los AngelesGroup
20152015 White Columns Benefit Exhibition White Columns, New York, NYGroup
2014RELAX Arts+Leisure, New YorkSolo
2014The Built Environment: Lower East Side in Istanbul Mixer, Istanbul, TurkeyGroup
2014Surrender Flags Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books, Portland, ORGroup
2013ABELOW ON DELANCEY James Fuentes, New YorkSolo
2013PAINTER Wasserman Projects, Birmingham, Michigan, MISolo
2013Gold Paintings, Solo booth presentation Art Brussels with James Fuentes, New York,Solo
2013Endless Vacation Cooper Cole Gallery, Toronto, CanadaGroup
2013This is the story of America Brand New Gallery, Milan, ItalyGroup
2013Draw Gym 247365 and Know More Games, Brooklyn, NYGroup
2013Rock Art & the X-ray Style Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NYGroup
2013The Fruit Loop Soloway, Brooklyn, NYGroup
2013Home Screen – The Suzanne Geiss Company, New York, NYGroup
2012ABELOW SCHMABELOW Brand New Gallery, Milan, ItalySolo
2012Famous Artist Sorry We’re Closed, Brussels, BelgiumSolo
2012Solo booth presentation Frieze New York with James Fuentes, New York, NYSolo
2012JOSHUA ABELOW Office Hours, Burlington, VTSolo
2012Songs From A Room Devening Projects + Editions, Chicago, ILSolo
2012Pig Party New YorkGroup
2012Epiphanic Glow Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, MAGroup
2012Breadbox ZieherSmith at the ICON, Nashville, TNGroup
2011DUMB & EASY Tomorrow Gallery, Toronto, CanadaSolo
2011OH! ABELOW James Fuentes, New York, NYSolo
2011Tailgates & Substitutes Thierry Goldberg, New YorkGroup
2011Go Figure Dodge Gallery, New YorkGroup
2011If you like it, take it home ART BLOG ART BLOG, New YorkGroup
2011Behind the Curtain, A Lock of Hair Falling Gallery Diet, Miami, FLGroup
2010All in the Family Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NYGroup
2010Power to the People Feature Inc., New YorkGroup