Castagnacci: Notes From A Quarry… at River Gallery Fine Art
Paintings, collage and works on paper
Opening reception: Saturday, January 23, 5-8pm
Artist Talk: Sunday February, 21, 2pm
January 23 – March 20, 2010
The art of Vincent Castagnacci discloses, over thirty years’ development, its own unmistakable rhetoric, like that of a familiar composer. A few lines, a few measures, and familiar textures are set in motion. We find ourselves following the movement of a rapt thought.
Rapt, wordless, defined as much by what it eschews as by its inclusions. The artist seems to proceed with a kind of faith that meaning already exists, with or without his narrating it, or that meanings themselves are beside the point of experiences. In lieu of subject matter, we find in these drawings and paintings the movements and contrasts of the works’ own instrumentation, the “what” everywhere passing into the “how” it is done – an art of verbs replacing nouns. The musical analogy – in abstract art, in particular – is by now worn, but I think highly apt in the case of this work. Like music, it is articulate but non-discursive. It is rhetorical, but not talkative.
And as with music, we might well ask, what is it? How is it that casual incidents of charcoal or pigment on paper can engender such intensities? That such spareness of means can seem like plenitude? Castagnacci is keenly attuned – and so attunes us – to worlds within worlds, in a purely visual register. He is sensitized, and so sensitizes us. He knows how little is sometimes required to make all the difference. Kierkegaard said somewhere that pleasure goes missing not for lack of its being offered to us everywhere, but because we hurry past it and onto the next place, where we expect pleasure to be. Some might characterize this as the over-refinement of a powerful design sensibility. His empty white surface is a field of choices. A line in motion, a blot, smear, or sprinkling of ink – this line, this marking implicates all the others, the entire field. The hand signs with its instruments – here forte, there pianissimo – and everywhere an openness to experience, a commitment to seeing what happens.
A traveler to Cape Ann, Massachusetts, cannot help but be impressed by its changing faces and the endless variety of forms one encounters there. Its appeal to poets and painters is immediately obvious. Gloucester Harbor, that still-bustling hub of the fishing industry, offers a cargo of material to the graphic imagination: its planar rhythms of piers, boats, and fisheries; of sturdy old houses that crowd the hillsides; its rocky waterfront, and dramatic points of land that gesture out to sea. Further inland, abandoned quarries dot the hills of Gloucester and Rockport. At Halibut Point, grassy balds and freshwater quarry pools lie within sight of the ocean, as bright, clear evidence of the last Ice Age, and the startling tectonic activity that makes Cape Ann legendary among geologists. The granite of Gloucester and Rockport, which built much of Boston, was forced to the surface from a mile underground, making it some of the densest available rock on earth. Castagnacci came of age here, and his highly inventive art continues to draw from it, as from a boundless source.
Drawing is an intimate art, because the accumulation of choices is so starkly visible. It collapses the distance between ideas and their execution on paper. Drawing is as close to thinking as any art form – thought not as abstraction, but as embodiment – positive, sensuous, immediate. The improvisational artist invents on the spot, which calls him out to respond a little differently with each approach. He shows us thought in the process of finding its way, which is to say, he can only see a short distance; and the rest is invention and the sum total of his experience. In this radical sense, Vincent Castagnacci is always starting over, and always finding the place a bit changed. This discovery forms the ecstatic core of his art. He is most at home in the excitements of the yet-to-be-invented. The whiteness of the paper is a return to origins, from which his arrangements of shape and color venture out afresh – with grace, resourcefulness and, I would venture, youthful happiness. – Kevin Brady
River Gallery Hours: Wed – Sat 11-5pm
River Gallery Fine Art