Chris Domenick’s deceptively flat world

Chris Domenick, exhibition view, Flat Moon, 2020

Contributed by Tony Bluestone / “Flat Moon,” Chris Domenick’s show of large framed works at Kate Werble Gallery, was the last exhibition I was able to see in person before the Covid-19 pandemic made it necessary to close galleries to the general public. The show is eerily poignant. Domenick asks how we know that the moon is not flat if we have never experienced being on it? It appears flat, and therefore it is. As I write this, everything has become flat in this sense. All the galleries have been shuttered. The artworks remain in the dark, and now can be seen only on our computer screens. They may exist in three-dimensional space, but they are flat to us. But what seems flat is not uninteresting.

Chris Domenick, The Flame on a Match (E is for Emily), 2020, ink and collage on paper, wood, stain, glass, custom nameplate, 75 × 55 × 2 ½ inches
Chris Domenick, Canceled Stone, 2020, ink, graphite, and screen print on paper, felt, wood, stain, glass, 85 × 62 × 2 ½ inches

In the gallery itself, every piece is an accumulation of flat drawings layered in a large-scale collage. They are colored in, colored over, and finally rubbed into the surface, producing an intuition of depth and texture. All sit behind large layers of glass that protect them, and keep the viewer from getting too close. My own reflection in the glass forced me to keep shifting in order to find new angles from which to see the piece clearly. Different vantages were also necessary to appreciate how each piece of paper impinged on the next, and how their interactions guided the viewer to the edge of the frame.

The edges of the works are open, re-orienting the viewer to the liminal by exposing the inner workings of the pieces and, therefore, Domenick’s process. He does not break the frame – there’s no violence in his method – but instead gently and neatly removes a piece of it, as though its absence were always meant to be. This made me question my expectation of a hard boundary, and I felt some aesthetic excitement in encountering a different, more revelatory type of border: one that is porous and allows some slippage between spaces. Through the crevices I could decipher the guts of the art humming beneath its relatively quiet surfaces.

Chris Domenick, exhibition view, Flat Moon, 2020
Chris Domenick, Flat Worm Moon, 2020, woodcut on paper, flocking, chagrin, wood, stain, glass, 77 × 57 × 2 ½ inches

The surfaces themselves are hardly dull. Each of the pieces has its own compositional logic. They consist of collections of interior and exterior coverings – for instance, the siding on a house, a broken iPhone case, container store shelves, and old drywall. Domenick seems to be embracing as valuable visual information the prefabricated stuff that shapes our experiences, arranging it into intriguing abstract pictures that suggest an unexplored continuum beyond the banal spaces we ordinarily see and occupy. We peer into the void and discover it’s not empty.

Chris Domenick: Flat Moon,” Kate Werble Gallery, 83 Vandam Street, New York, NY. March 12 to May 2020. Closed due to Covid-19.

About the author: Tony Bluestone lives and works in Queens. She has recently had solo shows at Elaine L Jacob gallery at Wayne State University in Detroit, at Larrie Gallery and a Two-Person Show at La Mama Gallery. In 2017, she was awarded the John Koch Award by the Academy of Arts and Letters. Bluestone teaches at Hunter College and the Whitney Museum. She earned a BA at Bard and an MFA at Hunter.

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Catalogue essay: Abstract Art Does Not Stop an Hour
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Jude Tallichet’s sense of the ineffable

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