Marco Casentini: "Recent Paintings" at Brian Gross Fine Art

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The Bridge on the Sea
2010
Acrylic and plexiglass on canvas
59″ x 59″
Photo: Brian Gross Fine Art

When Marco Casentini visited California in 1996, he was dazzled by the American urban landscape and, of course, the crisp, clear light; after moving to Los Angeles, his somber, elegant Milanese palette bloomed with “the colors of nature, of the sea, water, sky, and grass,” and of Disney, Diebenkorn, and perhaps fellow immigrant Hockney as well. Casentini’s current show reveals his delectable palette intact in the small assemblages, while a certain introspection has returned in the larger, monochrome, works rendered in close values of red, gray and off-white. The artist often paints gallery walls to in order to expand his paintings out into the viewer’s space. These monochromes, by contrast, are centripetal, luring the viewer in: “My multicolored paintings address the realities of life around me; my monochrome works reflect my interior life. They can be meditative, but also sensual and dramatic.”

Regardless of palette or psychological affect, Casentini’s abstractions almost always feature overlapping squares, rectangles, and variously proportioned ‘L’ shapes, sometimes conjoined and notched or tabbed like architectural floor plans; they create shallow Flatland spaces that are sometimes crisscrossed by zippy pinstripes. A quartet of small pieces, Grand Junction No. 2, 4, 10 and 14, and one canvas, The Bridge on the Sea, feature the artistÕs trademark joyous palette; the Colorado pieces, however, in painted and unpainted panels of Lucite, read as abstract constructions rather than illusions of space. The suede-like woven-patchwork monochrome canvases (Landscape in Red, Red Rock, the two Moments of Life paintings, and The Princess) derive from another pictorial precedent: Cubism’s spatially ambiguous puzzles, with their shifting planes. The collaged Plexiglas panels suggest game boards; painted in matte acrylic on the front, they cast slim shadows on the canvas ground; painted on the rear, they’re glossy and reflective, creating virtual spaces behind the picture plane–abstract versions of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s 1960s figure paintings on mirrored surfaces. The continuation of the painted color blocks around the edges of the canvases adds to the sculptural effect of these spatial paradoxes, flattened Rubik’Õs cubes that are blessedly fixed.