In 1987, Roberta Smith curated the exhibition Abstraction in Process, a concept that allegedly emerged from a conversation with Artists Space Director Linda Shearer about a new generation of artists working with abstraction. Smith, who had already made a name for herself as a prominent critic in New York but rarely delved into curating, chose four artists - Fontaine Dunn, Robert Hall, Benje LaRico, and Stephen Spretnjak - as examples of the disparate operations and motivations taking place within this new category.
In fact, Smith's essay makes very little attempt to draw the four practices together conceptually. Instead, she provides nuanced analyses of the particular logic behind each, letting their formal resemblances - as abstract wall-works on wood - serve to bind them. Though none of the participants mounted work that was entirely abstract or entirely process-based, the exhibition’s title hints at Smith's positioning of the genre between contemporary Neo-Expressionist painting and Process Art of the 1960s and 70s: four painters navigating the divide between intuition and empiricism, pictorialism and surface.