If success in art means a balance of tensions, nowhere was this push-pull more aptly illustrated than in the recent, “Take Two” exhibition at New York’s Catherine Ahnell Gallery. The four rising international artists featured in the showcase were captivating, however a particularly compelling contrast emerged between two of these contributing artists, L’Atlas and Miljan Suknoviç, whose diametrically opposed artistic styles offered a modern-day dialogue on the role of form and abstraction in art.

On the one end of the spectrum is the work of L’Atlas, the alias of French artist Jules Dedet Granel, whose compositions shine in their patterned precision. Stark contrasts of often black and white define the hard edges of the geometrical manifestations that emerge from L’Atlas’ works and recall simultaneously both modern and historic sensibilities. From the modern perspective, L’Atlas’ creations seem to echo the parallel symmetry and precision of the machine age, from the metal grates of industrial architecture to the rhythmic grooves of a computer chip.

At the same time, however, L’Atlas conjures these modern motifs with a mind for the more classical traditions of calligraphy and typography. Since his debut as a street artist in the 1990s, L’Atlas has harbored an ongoing fascination with the play between word and image that is inherent in typographic design, and this contemplation, alongside his parallel interest in playing with scale, results in compositions freed from clear reading yet nevertheless harboring an air of legibility. It is this visual hook that keeps the viewer locked on his compositions, and it this same connection that makes the nearby works of Miljan Suknoviç all the more fitting in their contrast.

Replacing L’Atlas’ streamlined style with a kaleidoscopic palette and exchanging clean geometry for playful patches and burst of color, Suknoviç’s work revives the heyday ideals of Abstract Expressionism for a contemporary audience. Unabashed drips and broad strokes of color interchange across Suknoviç’s canvases to convey a dynamic, almost vibrating surface, an element that Suknoviç accentuates in some works with an overlay of a geometric linework. Suknoviç is rather guarded as to his inspirations for his work, but what is clear in these complex surfaces is that he, like famed predecessor Willem de Kooning, is contemplating a similar excavation of the painterly surface by inviting the viewer to dive into the rich panoply of color that consumes the canvas.

Miljan Suknoviç installation view

It would be a challenge to pair two more disparate styles, and yet it is exactly this stark difference that makes the work of L’Atlas and Suknovic a powerful combination in this showcase. The works of these two artists as included in this “Take Two” exhibition help to fuel a valuable reflection and conversation upon the element of abstraction and its many forms.

L’Atlas has enjoyed a long list of group and solo exhibitions, debuting in the Street Art Galerie du Jour in Paris in 2001 and fêted just this last year (2014) with a solo exhibition, entitled “Transversal,” at the Wunderkammern Gallery in Rome. Meanwhile, Miljan Suknoviç is newer to the art world but is starting to enjoy similar celebration for his work. Based in New York City, Suknoviç enjoyed his first solo exhibition, entitled “Constallation III,” at the Catherine Ahnell Gallery in 2014, the same space that hosted this “Take Two” installation. For more on the exhibition, please visit the Catherine Ahnell Gallery website.

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