Saturday, May 23, 2009

Permeability's Vibrations: Dumitro Gorzo

[“Dual Absence,” (2009) installation. “Avenue of the Heroes & the Endless Column,” (2009). “Untitled,” (2009) mixed media on paper.]

Slag Gallery is currently presenting its second solo exhibition of the work of Dumitru Gorzo—including his recent paintings, sculptures, and drawings. Gorzo has concocted—in this new body of work—a formula of clay and glue on paper and canvas as his focal medium. For Gorzo, media is of utmost importance. For instance, when using paper, Gorzo sees its properties possessing a vulnerability—a permeability that allows the surface to vibrate with feeling. In “Core,” one finds a suite of drawings and watercolors on paper, so fraught with vibrations and feeling.

Additionally, there is a sculptural installation and a series of large-scale, oil and clay paintings on canvas. Seeming to merge Gorzo’s past and imaginary worlds, the subjects tackled in this recent body of work are myriad—ranging from abstract crypto-zoological investigations and hybrid form studies that mesh human, animal, and plant-like characteristics to more realistic historic renderings on canvas.

Uniting these two different bodies of work are Gorzo’s utilization of materials—particularly a formula of clay and glue on paper and canvas. Here is where surfaces become of special importance to the artist: It is when these media collide that one truly sees how permeable (and vulnerable) the paper happens to be. Gorzo also utilizes watercolors on these paintings on paper—often in combination with clay. This merger of qualities—the intensity of pigment attained through watercolor couple with the tactility of clay—coalesces in a form that brings sculpture to paper. Given the earthen qualities of these materials, it is not surprising that Gorzo often drew with mud as a child—finding the Romanian landscape as an early inspiration.

One finds, in Gorzo’s abstract drawings, erotic hybrid forms meshing human, animal, and plant-like characteristics in stark contrast to the simplicity of the white page. Stretching media and form to the limits, Gorzo includes a sculptural installation entitled, “Dual Absence”—consisting of three figures made of hollow business suits cast in resin. Headless, the sculpture’s necklines lean flush against a movable wall swathed in canvas and seem to enter the work of art—their vacant forms claiming fragility reminiscent of a painting on paper.

Gorzo’s working methods have ranged from street prankster to performance artist to studio painter and sculptor—avoiding any strict categorization. Born in Ieud, Romania in 1975, Gorzo has shown extensively in Romania where his work has garnered extensive press coverage and a growing audience since 1999. The artist found himself the subject of a major, one-person exhibition at the Romanian National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest in 2006. His exhibitions have frequently generated controversy for their political and sexual subject matter and the artist’s unusually bold treatment of issues that are still considered quite controversial in Romania. The artist lives and works in Bucharest and New York.

In a more distinct body of work on view here, the artist has taken up the subject of Constantin Brâncuşi's World War I monument “Endless Column”—in Romanian “Coloana fără sfârşit” or “Column Without End—as a point of departure for a number of large-scale clay and oil-on-canvas paintings. Built in Târgu Jiu, Romania, in 1938, the sculpture commemorated the young people of that country who died in World War I. It was constructed in the style of funeral pillars used in Southern Romania. Gorzo’s paintings look behind the scenes of this project to the construction site of the column, to Brâncuşi's workshop and the community of craftspeople who contributed to the creation of the memorial. Here the Gorzo tests the limits of clay and oil, experimenting with varying levels of light and shadow to form intense patches of color and texture. It is also a testament to the survival of that magnificent piece, which was slated for destruction by the communist Romanian government as a “bourgeois” sculpture.

Dumitru Gorzo’s works are efficient, rhythmic, and methodical while maintaining an acute idiosyncrasy. This kind of palpable tension pervades his prolific body of work, which takes shape in a multitude of forms though Gorzo considers drawing paramount to his practice. He approaches his work with an economy of means evident in his execution, materials, and subject matter.

Core: Dumitro Gorzo
@ SLAG Gallery

531 West 25th Street, Ground 10, NYC 10001
Through June 27, 2009

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