Joan Giordano: Painting the Printed Word
January 7 through February 15, 2022
By JONATHAN GOODMAN, February 2022
“An emphasis on touch is integral to my work”—Joan Giordano’s statement is central to her art. She works with a large number of materials, including handmade paper, recycled copper, encaustic wax, rolled newspaper, and steel. Using this broad array of elements, the artist fashions low reliefs, which are notable for their variety of textures. The resulting complexity of her works’ surfaces is compelling in the way they combine by overlapping, with color and distinctly different forms resulting in eye-catching intricacies. Not exactly two dimensional, and not truly three dimensional, the assemblages work out to be something in between. Our perception of the work hovers over the disparate elements, so that we direct our gaze up and down and across the exterior of the piece. But Giordano’s art also contains topical allusions derived from what we can read in the newspapers that figure as important components in her reliefs. Not all the newspapers, often rolled up, are in English, but those that are we can understand. They tell us about the news of the time. This gives a historical interest to the works. Thus her art becomes both a facade of textural complexity and a source of information about events that took place some time before the relief was made.
The work It’s a New Dawn (2021) is dense with materials and differing facets. Dominated by a circle in the center, the work consists of many parts: rolled newspapers; corrugated cardboard; on the lower register, surfaces overrun by variously colored drips of paint. Textures overlap, often fitting together like the parts of the puzzle. Indeed, the exterior of It’s a New Dawn is so diversified as to give the assemblage unusual intricacy, although this regularly happens in Giordano’s work. Then, in It’s Never Really Black and White (2021), made with only two elements, archival newspaper and corrugated cardboard, the work, is entirely given to abstraction. It presents a large rectangle, made mostly of white, ribbed cardboard. In the center, we find a row of thin, vertical ovals ending in points. These ovals are topped by the bright red colors of tightly rolled magazines, while on the bottom the rectangle is flanked on either side by cardboard that is mostly light. It is topped by a thin stripe of gray and then a larger expanse of brown. Underneath the tall ovals is a rectangular expanse of black cardboard, on top of which we see three rolled journals.
It is hard to bring into discussion the events related by the news publications, which present a readable word or a phrase but do not give us the chance to see more. So the topicality of the art is limited, and the rolled journals are more important in their function as visual elements. Yet the intimation of history hovers over these reliefs, even if we don’t know the details of the events. As a result, Giordano involves us with an account we cannot fully see or understand. The strength of these works remain mostly visual. In Wonderment (2021), rolls of periodicals, aligned both vertically and horizontally, fill most of the middle of the construction. Otherwise, the composition is divided into halves: light, corrugated cardboard with burned edges occurs on the lower left and right, while the top half consists of thin striations of paper, with a collage of black squares and corrugated cardboard filling its center. The overall gestalt of the low reliefs is relatively similar; Giordano has found a way of tying the experience of one work to the next by regularly using the same materials. Her art might be likened to a fugue: the repetition of form and substance that takes on differing yet also common arrangements. These pieces, then, combine effects with singular results, mirroring each other as they offer changing versions of a rich template. The results are very good. WM
Jonathan Goodman is a writer in New York who has written for Artcritical, Artery and the Brooklyn Rail among other publications.
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