Carmon Colangelo On Form

Catalogue Essay for Carmon Colangelo's exhibition Happy Planet

Bruno David Gallery, St. Louis

April 13 - June 2, 2018

Carmon Colangelo’s exhibition Happy Planet is composed of two series of monoprints titled Happy Plan and Colorful World.  Both The Happy Plan and Colorful World prints emphasize formal elements as a vehicle for meaning and as a way to create purposeful spatial arrangements.  When viewed as a whole in Bruno David Gallery, all the prints additionally create an environment full of optimism.  Where the importance of intuitive artistic play in the creative process is tempered with a logical application of idiosyncratic forms and signs.

The Happy Plan prints demonstrate an interest in mapping in a way that stress carefully considered relationships.   In minimal works Happy Plan 1 and Happy Plan 6 (all works 2018)  Colangelo makes generous use of the ground of the paper itself.  In these two works proximity of positive shapes and colors are offset by the negative shapes created by the laser cut wood configurations on the paper.  Significantly, the focus of Happy Plan 1 is put on the letter D, which has been slightly turned in an anticlockwise manner so as to support the entire structure on top of it.  The difference in formal elements between the two prints, however, is pronounced.  Where the former print emphasizes movement through both strong horizontals and diagonals, the later is very still as approximate horizontals and verticals reign supreme.  Though the red-letter D is also present in Happy Plan 6.  

Letters are used in both works and in several other prints throughout the exhibition.  One exception being the strong monotype print Happy Plan 3.  What stands out most about this print is its vertical format.  All the prints have elements of verticals, horizontals and diagonals.  What differs from one to the next is how The Canadian changes the emphasis from one print to another.  If one understands that the only reality of a 2D surface is the vertical and horizontal, then one grasps the importance of the necessity to create illusion through diagonal movement.  This occurs because the echoing of a 2D surface is not space and is not illusionistic.  Colangelo, therefore, is definitely creating illusion and space with his work through associative imagery and movement.  In fact the vertical shapes clearly evoke architecture.  

Color, however, renders certain forms more architecturally present than others.  The pale yellow shape in Happy Plan 3 for example is beautifully composed precisely as it is almost invisible.  Any other color would have rendered the entire composition unstable.  The other colors in the composition are also quite pale due to the oil-based ink’s interaction with wood, whose texture allows light through.  The exception always being red.  The pale yellow on the far left and the textured red shape just under a viridian on the top right are expertly placed interactions of colored shapes.  When viewed anticlockwise in Bruno David Gallery, each print from the series says something slightly different than the one to its right or left.  When viewed as a whole the works function as a unit and their meanings change yet again. 

Indeed there is a strong micro-macro relationship throughout the show.  One can move in or out and see different textures, structures, shapes, colors, movements that combine to make worlds.  Particularly curious is a work titled Spoiled Plans 1 (p. 37 of this catalogue but not exhibited in the show) as it relates to all the other Happy Plan prints.  The print is entirely circular in movement and is strongly evocative of certain graphic elements prevalent in Russian constructivism.  It serves as a type of lexicon for all the other “plan” prints.  It should be stated, however, that one isn’t exactly sure how this “Rosetta Stone” is supposed to help interpret the other works.   Importantly this is how it ought to be with a work of art.  What is of value lies more in the viewer’s effort to construct a significant interpretation between works as a means to better understand the artist’s intention.  

The Colorful World prints, on the other hand, evoke the allover spatial arrangements of the great Spanish Surrealist Joan Miró.  In regards to space, there is also a knowing play with horror vacui that one encounters when viewing the entire series.  In Colorful World 4 and Colorful World 7 one sees the artist making strong usage of the original color of the paper itself.  Though he begins to introduce large shapes and extensive embossments that simultaneously create an interaction between layers.  There are primarily two kinds of relationships at play here: the first are surface relationships between colored shapes, and the second are interactions between textures.  The varied textures are both the result of embossments and mark making.  

It is worth pointing out that these surface relationships and the interactions of textures lend themselves to be read in relation to processes of painting and drawing.  Colorful World 9, 10 and 11 are full of painterly marks that fill up the surface of the rectangle.  All three works encourage the viewer to move in close - as mentioned previously with the Happy Plan prints - to see how groupings of colored shapes interact.  One notices the painterly marks, but there are also marks that are closer to drawing.  By placing these different types of mark side by side with various embossments Colangelo emphasizes his ‘handwriting’, whether it be direct, indirect or totally mechanical. 

Ultimately Carmon Colangelo’s work is multi-layered on both a technical and conceptual level.  He encourages the viewer to accept that meaning is present through his language of signs and symbols, and he invites one to interpret this personal language on an individual level.  The implication being that he asks one to imagine a space and a time that is both of this world and slightly parallel to it.  The fact that he manages this is indicative that he works assuredly in the studio with a profound sense of enthusiasm for the artistic process.  His exhibition is thus an assertion that art must continue to be made - if necessary even with a touch of early modernism’s joie de vivre - despite the difficulties of quotidian reality.  

Text  © Andrew Smaldone & Bruno David Gallery, 2018


Installation View of Happy Planet at Bruno David Gallery

Installation View of Happy Planet at Bruno David Gallery

Installation View of Happy Planet at Bruno David Gallery

Happy Plan 6, 2018

Watercolour monotype with relief on Somerset, 76.2 × 55.9 cm, Unique

Happy Plan 9, 2018

Watercolour monotype with relief on Somerset, 76.2 × 55.9 cm, Unique

Happy Plan 5, 2018

Watercolour monotype with relief on Somerset, 76.2 × 55.9 cm, Unique

All Images copyright @ Bruno David Gallery, 2018 and courtesy of Bruno David Gallery