Painting and drawing are especially tactile and immediate forms of creating art. Each require the hands and creative visions of the artist to transform them into vehicles of thought, communication, and expression. While the relevancy of painting has long been part of critical conversation, this current show at Galerie Hertz is one more reason to put that discussion to rest. Brent Dedas and Evan Fugazzi are two examples of artists in dialogue with their predecessors, while simultaneously exploring and pushing the possibilities of painting in the contemporary world.
Abstract painting involves a simplification of perception to the essentials of color, form, and space. Evan Fugazzi’s painterly works certainly have a mid-century feel. His previous work I’ve compared to Abstract Expressionists such as Arshile Gorky. This current body of work is more minimal and simplified, pushing what is necessary to successfully convey an idea or a feeling. This approach brings to mind works of colorfield painters such as Barnett Newman and Helen Frankenthaler. One could see influence from Barnett Newman’s “Concord” (1949) in Fugazzi’s “A Clearing in the Woods.” Each explore pure abstraction with a monochromatic approach and emphasis on the physicality of the paint. Evan Fugazzi appears to be in the balance of change and control, planning and intuition. The viewer is guided from each plane of color in a
way that suggests much depth. The indicative title allows one to see a potential tree line in the distance. This title and the sheer surface quality also evokes Helen Frankenthaler, who was inspired by gestural nature scenes. Fugazzi’s “Left-Handed” and “Untitled” use similar visual vocabulary to Frankenthaler as well. There is a captivating subtly and a sophisticated understanding of the medium in the paintings of Evan Fugazzi.
Even if one is using paint, there are other ways to push the medium. Literally speaking, the paint can be pushed by experimenting with its application. Evan Fugazzi’s “Two” is a 40 inch square canvas comprised of a stark white background with two distinct shapes that seem to have been each been made in a singular stroke. Despite the simplicity, the artist has managed to instill these two abstract forms with much depth and vitality. These brown and peach-toned forms curve and overlap in a dragged manner that bring to mind Gerhard Richter’s squeegee paintings. The minimal calmness and masterful composition of this painting are immediately eye-catching upon entering the gallery.
While Evan Fugazzi’s work does share similarities with mid-century modern painters, his works also bring to mind contemporary painter, Amy Sillman. This is especially true of “Resting Place,” in the way he incorporates line drawing into the painting. Overall his work focuses on the materiality of paint and an exploration of possibilities within. This physicality is clear in “Caesura,” where the gestural application of vibrant blue hues is sumptuous and dynamic.
The abstract works of Hans Hoffman seems to be an influence of Evan Fugazzi’s as well. Each artist uses bold color combinations and painterly spontaneous brushwork. Each work with paint in a push and pull manner, always in dialogue with the painting rather than giving it orders. Although the medium differs, the types of marks made by Hoffman can also be seen as influential in the work of Brent Dedas. Particularly Dedas’ “The Dirt in My Blood and Blood in the Dirt” and Hoffman’s “Laburnum.” Dedas heavily utilizes the act of drawing within his art practice.
Through destruction comes new life in this new body of work by Brent Dedas. His experimental mark-making techniques utilize nontraditional materials, such as leaving metals to rust on a surface. This approach welcomes chance in a way that using paint alone could not achieve. He even encourages these materials to corrode by applying water, salts, and various corrosives. In doing so, the viewer is confronted with not only visually intriguing surfaces, but ideas of the physical effects of time passed. “A Most Delicate Thing” evokes the geometric abstractions of Kazimir Malevich; the warm, burnt sienna-toned geometric rust stains on a white surface challenges and pushes any preconceived notion of what painting is and can be.
While these works of Brent Dedas are all entirely abstract, such works often have a foot
in the representational world. “Ritual is the Echo Of” incorporates organic radiating lines like that of a topographical map. The white linear elements have a feeling of scratches vigorously made on the surface. These layers of lines coupled with the corrosive materials leave room to ponder the eroding effects of pollution on the landscape.
In the contemporary art world, painting is no longer limited to acrylic, oil, or watercolors. Brent Dedas explores the possibility of alternative mark-making techniques in his newest series, “The Architecture of Deconstruction.” An example of another contemporary artist reshaping our idea of painting is Rashid Johnson, who creates his paintings using black soap and wax. By utilizing these experimental approaches, the alternative medium of choice speaks volumes on a conceptual level, as well as being visually intriguing.
Painting & Drawing 2015 pt.2 will be on view through August 31st. This show is a
celebration of the medium and techniques of paint and drawing. It is also fresh and
contemporary by challenging our notion of what painting is and illustrating that this age-
old artistic tradition is alive and well.
Galerie Hertz 1253 S. Preston St.
Louisville, KY 502-581-8277