In January Casey Kaplan is presenting work from the 1970s by painter Giorgio Griffa (b. Turin, 1936), an Italian painter known for his rigorous approach to conceptual painting. Here is an excerpt from the press release for the show:
“In Georgio Griffa’s observations, metaphorical and symbolic imagery exist as an overlay functioning on top of the canvas, superimposed rather than prevailing as integral to the material itself. In 1968, as a means to escape these limitations, Griffa relinquished the stretcher by laying the raw canvas on the floor so as to effectively absorb the applied color while yielding direct contact between body and surface.
[Image at top: Giorgio Griffa, Verticale, 1977, acrylic on canvas, 70.1 x 122 inches. Courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York. Photo: Jean Vong. All images are from Casey Kaplan’s website.]
“Seeking harmony between action and result, the artist synchronized his engagement in a rhythmic, repetitive pattern, ingraining movement into the work as the relationship between artist and instrument stemmed into a symbiotic interconnection, manifesting somewhere between the predetermined and the unconscious. Calling upon ‘the intelligence of the painting'through the generic simplicity of a single brushstroke, the original gesture that generated the artist’s legacy, a series of horizontal lines of varying widths and color linger on; though terminate at fluctuating lengths in an effort to consider authorship within the construct of an active cessation. Initiating a process governed by reductive inclinations and a sophisticated ease, Griffa coexists with his paintings in reflection of origin and anonymity while simultaneously signaling the passing of time through a restrained interruption in a series of linear strokes.
“Initially chosen instinctively, for the preliminary tone in each painting is selected at random, color is engaged to administer the following selection and so on. In effect, color assumes the role of the connector between gesture and outcome, creating a necessary formal logic that stabilizes the work in history. The resolution to eliminate connotative subject matter or content parallels the way in which color is employed, for as tones and hues seep into the canvas they become a blend of ingredients and in effect, the matter that forms imagery. Griffa bestows his work with “a capacity not inherent in it by nature, but made natural to it through man’s efforts,” allowing his own hand to continue on an equal plane with the authentic matter constituting each painting, through both physical and intellectual means.
“As movement halts, after the paint dries and the immediacy created by the body is removed, the artist gently folds the fabric in equal parts. We are left with an archive, or record of the act of painting. In unfolding the canvas and pinning the painting to the wall, distinct lines remain, reminding us of time passed as the memory of painting becomes memorialized. In providing the viewer with the freedom of independent consideration through a limited degree of intervention and openness in composition, Griffa offers a universal language in his commemoration and celebration of painting.”
In 2016, Griffa’s touring retrospective, curated by Andrea Bellini,
will make stops at the Fondazione Giuliani, Rome, Italy (February )
and Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, Portugal (May). In
February, Griffa also has a solo exhibition, curated by Bice Curiger, at the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles, France.
On the occasion of his 2013 solo at Casey Kaplan, Roberta Smith wrote in the NYTimes that Griffa’s “early efforts especially take advantage of the eye’s reflexive tendency to read marks on flat surfaces as pictorial but repay the effort with a natural touch, a playfulness that has its own kind poetry and a determination that beauty and deconstruction are not strange bedfellows.” She declared that his paintings “deserve a place in the global history of abstraction,” and certainly they warrant more attention in New York.
 “Painting Too Is Knowledge: a Conversation with Luca Massimo Barbero and Giorgio Griffa.” Giorgio Griffa, Canone Aureo = Golden Ratio, MACRO, 2011, p. 14-17.
 Cani sciolti antichisti. Turin: Martano and Samanedizioni, 1980, p. 46-48
“Giorgio Griffa: The 1970s,” Casey Kaplan, Chelsea, New York, NY. January 7 through February 6, 2016.
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