By RAPHY SARKISSAN
From “The Hidden World of Objects”
Curated by Kelcey Edwards
SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2019, “Fact and Fiction”
866 UN Plaza, New York, NY.
March 5 -11, 2019
The Hidden World of Objects, incisively curated by Kelcey Edwards, included four richly colored and optically vibrant paintings by Richard Pasquarelli.
Partly representational and partly abstract, these sensual images of Pasquarelli unexpectedly come across as peculiar still lifes depicting slices of dense and disorganized spaces inhabited by the absent individual whose existence is largely linked to such objects as electronic devices, books and piles of paper, suggestive of the quintessence of the untidy home, corporate workplace or academic office. Among the paintings executed through oil on Mylar mounted on panel, Ed No. 8 represents an almost tumbling pile of seven books whose tails and heads traverse the picture plane from the lower right side of the composition upwards toward the left. The apparently falling pile of books is crowned with an unrecognizable form in various shades of blue, artfully pairing similitude and abstraction. Pasquarelli masterfully compresses the pictorial space through a linear and planar syntax of mostly identifiable objects along with nonrepresentational and dark grounds, although a certain softness of line and fluent layering of paint become visible upon closer inspection.
The partial figures of the painting, while conveying the semblance of books, retain a sense of flatness and hence reassert the two-dimensional reality of the picture surface, recalling Andy Warhol’s illusory statement, “… just look at the surface of my paintings… There's nothing behind it.”1 The tail or head of a given book in Pasquarelli’s slippery space appears as a threshold of perusal and scrutiny, perhaps first and foremost of the notable Swiss art historian Heinrich Wölfflin’s words: “For classical art all beauty is bound to the complete revelation of form, whereas the baroque obscures absolute clarity even when the intent is to pursue perfect objectivity.”2 It is indeed through the formal vocabulary of Renaissance linearity and clarity of Ed No. 8, along with its Baroque darkness, recession and openness, that Pasquarelli at once asserts and disrupts the painting’s inherent static condition with such ease, rendering it as a pictorial manifestation of the contemporary individual’s state of mind that becomes ceaselessly flooded by information delivered through digital media and augmented reality.
In this series of Pasquarelli, the chromatically amplified, Matissean palette within a given painting is strategically distributed across the composition in a manner that momentarily transcends its content as a critique of digital technology’s explicit or implicit domination of the subject’s life. At the same time by aestheticizing the very technocracy that has become an unconscious obduracy to the contemporary individual’s virtually disintegrating self, the formalistically orchestrated paintings of Pasquarelli seductively purify, collapse and transgress the incommensurate stature of electronic devices and materialistic objects that society has come to collectively idolize.
These absorbing paintings of Pasquarelli function, as aptly suggested by the title of the exhibition The Hidden World of Objects, as visually alluring invitations to a sense of orderliness, to a world of words, to the book, to the mind, to reflection, to the épistémè. WM
1. Andy Warhol, in Tony Shafrazi, ed., Andy Warhol Portraits (London: Phaidon Press, 2009), p. 19.
2. Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Early Modern Art (1915), trans. Jonathan Blower, essays by Evonne Levy and Tristan Weddigen (Los Angeles: Getty Publication, 2015), p. 274.
Raphy Sarkissian is an artist, writer, curator and art historian currently teaching theory and praxis at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He received his MA from New York University and an MFA from SVA. Sarkissian lives and works in New York and can be followed on Instagram @raphy_sarkisssian.view all articles from this author