Contributed by Jennifer Rose Bonilla-Edgington / It’s the visual vibrations, both from individual paintings and from the show as a whole, that first call the viewer to Brooklyn-based artist Melissa Capasso’s work, on view at Jennifer Wroblewski’s gallery Gold/Scopophilia in Montclair. Vibrant and predominantly abstract, Capasso’s small-scale paintings suggest beats of life flowing from one piece to the next.
Above Ground (2019) urgently imparts movement and direction, impelling the eyes to move up, down, and side to side. It incorporates a clear demarcation between the north and south planes while exuding an inner light created by the white streaking from top to bottom. Like the residue of powder from a moth’s wing on a dark surface, the canvas’s overall effect is soft and glowing. On finer inspection, dry brush strokes have left deep hues of greens and reds and pockets of black with white speckles – a semblance of a night sky on the other side of a fuselage seen from the ground.
In its lush complexity, Capasso’s work encourages thorough immersion. She wants to explore remembrance, and in particular to capture the lingering sense of misplaced or lost memories, which might be likened to a fisherman’s search for a light in rough seas. In Slip of the Tongue (2019), discombobulated elements of the figure – eyes, nose, mouth, fingers, and teeth – are distinct, and appear to be enmeshed in a machine, perhaps that of memory. In spite of the ostensibly gruesome figurative disorientation, the overall order and balance of the piece intimates that the cogs are working towards resolution. In turn, the pink, blue, yellow, and salmon colors, and fragments of the sun peeking from behind the mechanism, evoke an aspect of memory that turns out – a little surprisingly – to be warm, calm, and contemplative.
While Capasso, who graduated of Brooklyn College’s MFA program in 2016, has arrived at her own approach, strong art-historical influences are evident. Cowslip (2019) features identifiable figures such as leaves and a table, mingled with surreal shapes and impressionist brush strokes. The quick strokes of color on the table recall Monet’s Water Lilies series, the hovering shapes Miró’s movement The Escape Ladder. The painting as a whole resembles Matisse’s La Danseuse Créole. In synthesizing styles, and incisively choosing color and controlling line, Capassao manages to integrate fluidity, the flat plane, and reactive hues while commanding visual interest. Her work’s energy invites viewers’ engagement and its intricacy stimulates them to search their own minds for connections to the content, sparking the neurons. Her paintings are, among other things, a jolting remedy for rusty introspection.
“Melissa Capasso: Second Sight,” Gold/Scopophilia, 594 Valley Road, Montclair, NJ. Through October 8, 2019.
About the author: Jennifer Rose Bonilla-Edgington is an artist and writer living in the greater NYC area with her husband, Colin, and her dog, Jasper Johns Stone.