Francisco-Fernando Granados: who claims abstraction?
Francisco-Fernando Granados, who claims abstraction?, 2023, installation, digital image printed on vinyl. Photo: Rachel Topham Photography. Courtesy of the artist.

Francisco-Fernando Granados: who claims abstraction?

SFU Galleries, Vancouver, BC - To Dec 16

by Michael Turner

One of Vancouver’s more intriguing art spaces is not a traditional gallery or a designated outdoor public art platform, but a large and literal picture window at the north end of SFU’s Harbour Centre concourse. The presumption is that whatever enters this space is in dialogue with its postcard view of the harbour and the mountains beyond. But in Francisco-Fernando Granados’ installation who claims abstraction? (2023), the subject is not what is pictured in this view, it is the notion of the view itself. What is seen? What is made of it? And by whom?

On the east and west walls that “frame” this window/view/picture is a large, digital image diptych (or a triptych, à la Ian Wallace, if we include the window?). Rendered in blues, greens, pinks and earth tones, the work stands (crumbles?) like a corrupted version of a Frank Stella Protractor painting, looking less like the Op Art it suggests than – by virtue of the verticality of the work being printed on vinyl strips – a trivision (three-message) billboard gone awry. Thus, the question of who claims abstraction could be related to the ghost in this artwork’s machine.

The very Modernism that theorized 20th-century abstraction is in itself a ghost that haunts us, insisting on the autonomy of art (at a time of inclusive relational engagement) and a specialized, if not exclusive, language with which to speak of it. In his artist’s statement, Granados writes: “Forms of minor abstraction emphasize ephemeral materials, site-specific approaches and non-art contexts. They seek to infuse geometric visual vocabularies with open-ended politics.” With his “parenthetic” diptych, what is pictured in the window becomes a detail, something that is helpful but not necessary.

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