Whitehot Magazine

November 2013: Aldo Tambellini @ James Cohan Gallery

 We Are the Primitives of a New Era, from the Manifesto Series, 1961, Duco, acrylic, and pencil on paper
25 x 30 in. (63.5 x 76.2 cm), Photographer: Christopher Burke, (c) The Artist / Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai

by Katy Diamond Hamer

Artist Aldo Tambellini’s recent exhibition at James Cohan Gallery, “We Are the Primitives of a New Era, Paintings and Projections 1961-1989”, transported the viewer on a metaphysical trip through time. In some ways, this was quite literal, as most of the work in the show was made in the 1960s and 1970s, however there was also a conceptual portal if you will, a circular space that could be entered through abstract poetic text, such as “To be enveloped by black.”

Aldo Tambellini was born in Syracuse, New York in 1930 but his family then moved to Italy where he lived until the age of 16 and shortly after the end of World War II he relocated back to Syracuse with a full scholarship. The exhibition at James Cohan was his first in New York in nearly four decades after having taken pause from the gallery setting, although his work has been within the circuit of conceptual cinema and film festivals. After being awarded a grant by The National Film Preservation Foundation and The Film Foundation his early films were restored by the Harvard Film Archive and a triptych composite was made by the artist specifically for this exhibition.

At the gallery, I had a walk through with Elyse Goldberg which was lovely, but she suggested I contact curator Joseph Ketner for further information regarding the technical aspect of Tambellini’s work. Some of the techniques were a bit foreign to me. Ketner, an academic and Distinguished Curator-in-Residence at Emerson College, provided succinct and informative answers to the questions below. The exhibition was on view from September 12th through October 19th, 2013.

KATY DIAMOND HAMER: Elyse (Goldberg) mentioned that Aldo Tambellini has used the light and screen from a television in making some of the works/prints. This seems quite original and I'm wondering if Aldo came up with this method or if he had knowledge of it being used previously? There is a naturalistic quality and also a genuine "roughness" if you will, as an artist reaches out to the materials that surround him in everyday life. Can you talk about these photograms and the aesthetic choice?

JOSEPH KETNER: It is completely original. Aldo conceived of the idea of making videograms (or photograms) from the spray of the cathode ray across the television screen. Yes, they are surprisingly natural. He was trying to capture the spray of television technology and captured the invisible electronic universe in still form. 

Videogram, 1968, Videogram on photographic paper, 15 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.(40 x 50.2 cm), Photographer: Christopher Burke, 
(c) The Artist / Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai

KDH: The artist hasn't had an exhibition in quite some time, why now? The work does have a freshness while also representing a particular time, did you feel there was a lack in the market for this kind of work? 

JK: Once Aldo move to Boston to work with Otto Piene at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, MIT, in 1976 where he continued his experiments with television and communication technology.  the New York art world did not follow the art and technology trends during the 1970s and 1980s. At this time the art world is paying increasing attention to the the 1960s multimedia and subsequent art and technology art. Thus, Aldo is experiencing a resurgence of interest.

KDH: I'm interested in the metaphysical content and poetic text that is throughout some of the projected works. Can you talk about this and Aldo and your decision to project onto the floor, giving a chance for the viewer to somehow participate, and the circular shape formed? 

JK: Aldo was at the forefront of the participatory multimedia installation. That was a fundamental principal of his work in the 1960s and continues through this current installation. You can see from his earlier work that he attempts to breakdown the barriers between the walls, the floors and the ceilings to dissolve the space of the room.

KDH: Aldo's work has an almost scientific underpinning. Was it also your interest as a curator to delve into this energetic realm of proposed content teetering on the realm of the spiritual?

JK:The spiritual and the scientific are very close in Aldo's work. He is not a scientist. He is a product of his generation when the micro cosmos and the macro cosmos were opened up to humanity through the scientific developments at the atomic level and in our first ventures into outer space. This forms the basis of his metaphorical structure and his formal structures in his work across all of the media in which he works.

 ALDO TAMBELLINI, We Are The Primitives Of A New Era, 2013, Installation view, September 12 - October 19, 2013, 
Photographer: Bill Orcutt(c) The Artist / Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai 

ALDO TAMBELLINI, E-7, from the Black Energy Suspended Series, 1989, Acrylic on architectural paper with incisions, 
30 x 42 in. (76.2 x 106.7 cm), Photographer: Christopher Burke  (c) The Artist / Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai




Katy Hamer

Katy Diamond Hamer is an art writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently contributing to Flash Art International, Sleek, NY Magazine, Whitehot Magazine and others. For more of her writing visit: http://www.eyes-towards-the-dove.com

Photograph by Takis Spyropoulos, 2012

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