By Jeanne Brasile
Abstract Geometries is a paean to geometric abstraction, the form of expression favored by artists Kati Vilim and Gianluca Bianchino. Their two person exhibition, curated by Matthew Gosser, consists primarily of paintings and mixed-media reliefs, complemented with selections that show the artists’ virtuosity in many media and their shared penchant for experimentation. Works on paper, LED-lit sculpture, plaster, cement, and photographs demonstrate the artists’ unique approaches to non-objective painting. Ordinarily, one might consider geometric abstraction a narrow niche for artistic exploration, yet Vilim and Bianchino find inspiration within the confines of this painterly tradition.
Strongly influenced by Josef Albers and Color Theory, Vilim relies strongly on color and shape to convey meaning. Breaking from those influences, she introduces the additional complexities of repeated forms, depicted serially from multiple perspectives, within overlapping planes. Bianchino’s work, alternatively, is frequently built on wooden panels, affixing layered forms to the surface to create depth and the illusion of exploding space. He is influenced more by Cubism and Surrealism, drawing from his vocational studies in architecture as a youth in his native Italy.
Though coming at abstraction with varied backgrounds, Gosser makes a convincing case for showing these two artists together, astutely seeing parallels in their art practices despite their different influences. One of the surprising inclusions in this exhibition are Vilim’s concrete sculptures, particularly Untitled #2. In this series, her paintings become dimensional, as if they had jumped off the wall. Devoid of color, she focuses purely on shape and spatial relationships. The sculptures reveal the logic of her paintings to the patient and attentive viewer. Permutations of perspective and shape become apparent as one moves around the sculptures. This experience is enhanced by sight lines to other works, coaxing synergies and distinctions among them.
Functioning in a similar fashion, Bianchino’s Space Tectonics sculptures are intermingled with Vilim’s concrete pieces down the center of the gallery. This placement further pushes the relationships between the artists’ work while establishing their experimental approaches and virtuosity with materials. The weathered looking sculptures are small, dense and plodding. These diminutive works are a visual foil to his large Mechanical Landscapes which hang on an adjacent wall. These polished and contain a large central void where the mass of a painting would usually be. This literal void reveals the wall behind the panel and is a foil to their bright, monochromatic surfaces.
Bianchino’s Mechanical Landscape #2 in My Blue is a highlight. The brilliant blue, wooden geometric surface emphasizes the notion of movement and the coldness of astronomical exploration, a recurring theme in his work. The sense of movement is heightened by the shadows that play upon the surface, cast from other parts of the painting onto itself: the void and the wall. This effectively obliterates the confines of the quadrilateral support and brings the work more directly into the space of the viewer. The uniform surface balances the ballistic movement suggested by the jutting wooden planes, erupting tubes and metal parts which evoke notions of solar flares or galactic bodies in orbit.
Vilim, too, convincingly depicts movement and rootedness in her work, though she is more informed by organizational principles of mathematics, music, language and algorithms. Vilim’s Beta of the Meta and Overstory are dizzying and full of energy. Wedges, arches, cylinders and polygons mingle with other shapes—wrapping, twisting and playfully interlocking. These shapes seem referential—without being literal—of architecture, geometry, physics and engineering. Though the shapes appear solid, they float through the composition in a congested orbit. The floating effect is intensified by the bright colors in which they are rendered—permutations of shapes in yellows, reds, blues, pinks, oranges and lavender. Though one can see the figurative and spatial relationships of these paintings to her concrete sculptures, these paintings are anything but indolent and heavy.
Gosser stated he had long wanted to curate a show featuring Vilim and Bianchino. “They have always been on similar artistic trajectories. I could see their careers developing in stages that showed continuity and points of convergence, though their practices were often on the same path.” The pairing of these artists is not surprising. What is refreshing are the complex and overlapping conversations skillfully curated by Gosser. These discourses, like Bianchino and Vilim’s art, are overlapping and prolific—proving that abstraction is not devoid of subject matter. In fact, in the capable hands of gifted artists and curators, abstraction can be the most fecund of subjects.
Abstract Geometries can be seen at The Hillier College of Architecture and Design Gallery at NJIT until March 27th. On the final day of the show there will be an artist talk and closing party from 2pm to 4pm.
Jeanne Brasile is a writer, artist and curator living and working in Essex County. She is currently the director of the Walsh Gallery at Seton Hall University.
Featured image by Matthew Gosser