In his seventh solo exhibition at the Bruno David Gallery, Carmon Colangelo has produced two bodies of work, Storms and Post Storms, a turbulent pair of exhibits that explores environmental instability, urban growth and the idea solastalgia – the distressing sense of powerlessness people feel when the landscape they've known is transformed by environmental change.
Hanging in the main gallery, Storms is series of eight large prints where Colangelo has used traditional printing techniques, found objects and computer graphics to concentrate on hurricane patterns, marrying storms with male and female names in a print cycle that is by turns deeply textured and cleanly minimalist.
In Jose & Joyce, for instance, Colangelo has used Photoshop to manipulate the print's roiling foundational layer, a colorful mid-century map that's been stretched nearly beyond recognition. Atop this churning base layer he has then used a traditional technique known a chine-collé, bonding a sheet of translucent rice paper over portions of the work's unstable base. It is a marriage of the old and new, one that partially obscures while also adding depth of color.
Colangelo created the series during a residency at Flying Horse Editions in Florida, a state that's not only seen its share of natural disasters, but also (like just about everywhere else these days) is rich in pre-fab architecture. With this in mind, the artist printed another layer from the discarded laser-cut plates for architectural models, referencing both the increasing uniformity that is pre-fab architecture, as well as the violent dislocation that occurs during natural disasters.
The visual dynamism of Jose & Joyce is counterbalanced by Floyd & Fifi, a minimalist work that uses the same visual vocabulary of maps, chine-collé and architectonic forms. Only here that language is radically pared down. Colangelo uses bright, primary colors in the tradition of Ellsworth Kelly to print the architectural forms against a white background. Some contain bursts of color in the form of maps, but many are simply bright outlines from the laser-cut forms. It's as though these bits of our urban landscape have been violently uprooted and have now come to rest out of context.
In the front room hangs Post Storms, which consists of nine gridlike works of airmail "envelopes." (Aimed at the young collector, each grid consists of fifteen "envelopes" that are available for individual sale.) Taking the notion of environmental change as its jumping-off point, the series of small works on paper is something of a graphic Wunderkammer from Colangelo's studio. It's rife with images of ships at sea, sketches from his artist's notebooks, storms and maquettes. But the series quickly transforms as Colangelo introduces references to artists like Jean Dubuffet and Piet Mondrian, before shifting once more to purely graphic illustrations and references to our modern shorthand of LOLs and OMGs.
Individually, each of these works act as a sort of artist's exercise. Seen as a whole, however, both shows present the artist using a deliberately limited vocabulary to explore near infinite possibilities.
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