Joshua Abelow


oil and burlap on canvas
60 x 45 inches

I think in general with pretty much all of my paintings I try to, through the use of fairly traditional painterly concerns—color, surface, composition—just, you know, like seductive oil paint, I try to draw somebody in but then I like to slap them in the face with something that’s butting up against the very thing that maybe made somebody want to look at the painting in the first place. – Joshua Abelow

As he hints at in the quote above, Joshua Abelow likes to combine traditional artistic concerns with bizarre humor and contemporary pop culture references to create paintings with surprisingly layered meanings. At first, Running Witch looks like a cartoonish silhouette hybrid of a witch and a boxing man. Abelow frequently depicts himself as a stick figure, a kind of naïve self-portrait that makes him the butt of the joke. Recently, the outline of the running witch surrounded the stick figure, perhaps as a costume or mask to ward off bad energy and artistic stress. And yet if one looks at Running Witch from a purely formal standpoint, the work is very analytical, with a tightly controlled set of contours that make up the figure. As a simplified black form with a surrealist quality, the painting could easily be in dialogue with work by Joan Miró or Paul Klee. Abelow received his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2008 and has shown his work in gallery exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe, including an exhibition in honor of Sol Lewitt at MASS MOCA.