New York, New York, United States
|Known for||Sculpture, photography|
Cecile Abish (b. New York, NY, 1930) is an American artist known primarily for her works in sculpture and photography. Her works have been shown in many solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums in the United States and internationally, such as the Newark College of Engineering, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and the Architektur Zentrum in Vienna to name a few. Her husband, the writer Walter Abish, wrote The Shape of Absence in 1990, based on her work.
For many years, Abish’s primary focus was sculpture installations. She frequently combined manufactured materials, such as particle board, and multitudes of marbles. Her work How 4 into 4 into 3 (1975) consists of homasote, marbles, and baking soda. This homosote is placed upright alongside the interior walls of a room, while the floor is covered with marbles. The marbles are separated next to the homosote, creating a shadow-like effect as if the marbles were light. This is reflected by the title of the work; in one corner, four particle boards create four shadows, in the opposite corner only three shadows are visible from the four particle boards.
Abish believes in a synergy between the work and the working surface. In her view, sculpture has a significant impact on the world around it: “The thousands of marbles [referring to her work How 4 into 4 into 3] add a hard but penetrable surface to the surface…this new surface is an omnidirectional translucent flowing surface.” Abish further explains the harmony that a surface has with a completed sculpture after the two are one: “Everywhere surfaces await the coming of sculpting.” 
This idea is explored further in Near Where I live (1976), where several boards are laid on the ground, with thousands of marbles on the bare space between the boards. The boards have incisions on them in such a way that creates a channel across each board; gaps in the marbles continue the route. The result, as reviewer Barbera Cavaliere exclaims, “suggests a continuum within the structure… a sweeping arabesque motion only partially present in the incised arcs, enhancing the lyrical flow felt also in the scattered shiny marbles.”
Abish also participated in “Deconstruction/Reconstruction: The Transformation of Photographic Information Into Metaphor”, an art exhibition focused on photomanipulation. The exhibition featured artists by manipulating different photographs and reconstructing them into one. Specifically for Abish, multiple photographs were taken and were essentially cut into jigsaw puzzle pieces, which were then rearranged and reassembled to create new works, such as Firsthand. Abish also took photographs of museum interiors, which were used in Walter Abish’s writing work What Else? to accompany the museological tone of the book.
Abish has exhibited in New York at the Alessandra Gallery, the Bykert Gallery, and the Michael Walls Gallery. She has also shown in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Michigan, as well as Germany, Austria, and France. Aside from galleries, she has been associated with various institutions as a visual artist, including the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Cooper Union, and Harvard University. She earned a BFA at Brooklyn College in 1953.
- “Abish Cecile,” in Marquis Who’s Who in America (2013)
- Ihab Hassan, “Ecliptic Art,” Southern Review, 1994, 627.
- Barbera Cavaliere, “Cecile Abish,” review of Near Where I live, by Cecile Abish. Womanart 1 No. 4 (1977): 28
- Tony Smith et al, “Statements by Sculptors,” Art Journal 35 No. 2 (1975): 126
- Ray Metzker et al, “Avant-Garde Photo Show,” New York Times June 27, 1980, C28
- "Cecile Abish". New Museum. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- “99: The New Meaning,” Sulfur 28 Spring (1991): 220-221
- Art Journal 33 No. 2 (1973-1974): 156