acrylic on linen
Oil on linen
Collection of the Ballinglen Museum of Art, Ballycastle, Co. Mayo, Ireland.
oil on linen
I sought simple shapes with a pulse. Simplicity from which complexity could arise with just a canvas, a brush, and a pigment.
Gross McCleaf GalleryPhiladelphia, PA
Entering the gallery of Evan Fugazzi’s large scale paintings is like throwing the blinds open in a dark room. The immediate reaction is a drenching, declarative oneness. The graphic nature of these black acrylic shapes on white rectangular canvases feels like a bold statement about simplicity and blatant form. And in truth, they are formal feats achieved within narrow parameters, including a lack of color and limited moves to arrive at the final compositions. These are paintings which favor economy and reject excess, but not at the expense of a poetic sensibility.
As my eyes adjust to the bald brightness of Fugazzi’s visual language, the paintings come to rest in a more nuanced space than the high-achieving formal successes they appear to be at first. As if hiding in plain sight, the initial geometries give way to complexity. Architectural spaces, bird's eye landscapes, tabletops, and gates to the great beyond take shape as the binary black and white interact as subject and field.
These paintings reward viewers with the kind of meditative, slow pace Fugazzi employed to make them. As a Midwestern, hardworking painter he told me one of his hardest earned studio lessons occurred recently, “there’s effort…and then there’s timing.” That exercise in restraint and patience replicates itself in the work. The full experience of these pieces allows a glimpse of his process which merges intellectual, measured maneuvering around the canvas with a grappling for real world feeling, present in the touch of the surface. As a result, these paintings are not overly sympathetic or brusquely chilly but stand still in a unique place holding both strands of investigation to the light.
"A Painter With a Purpose"
In Evan Fugazzi’s paintings we are given the pleasure of experiencing how each color helps to define the others.
by Stan Mir March 23, 2019
PHILADELPHIA — A few years ago, Evan Fugazzi began to feel that the colors in his paintings were “band-aids,” and that he needed to work strictly with black paint on white canvas to move forward as an artist. Fugazzi exhibited his works from this period in a 2016 exhibition at Gross McCleaf called In Situ. Fugazzi is well aware of the connection between these paintings and the work of Franz Kline, but if you ask Fugazzi he says that he consciously looked away from Kline for inspiration. He looked to poetry and music instead.
If Fugazzi’s current exhibition, In Color, at Gross McCleaf is any indication, he learned what he needed to for now. Color has become the driving force of this painter’s work. His aesthetic commitment calls to mind Stanley Whitney, who has continued to distinguish himself as a “call and response” painter. As the elder painter describes it in a biographical statement for the Berggruen Gallery, “One color calls forth another. Color dictates the structure, not the other way around.”
Fugazzi’s bucking of conventional notions of form is both liberating and inspiring — particularly considering his training at the very traditional Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His freedom becomes the viewer’s freedom. We aren’t beholden to the way that one line meets another. We are given the pleasure of experiencing how each color helps to define the others.
When he’s in the studio, Fugazzi tries “to be as shortsighted as possible,” as he put it in an interview with Jim Cory in the accompanying catalogue. This improvisatory approach is most apparent in a work such as “Bark” (2018). The painting has the vertical composition of a tree trunk, but Fugazzi is not interested in precisely rendering the texture or the color of tree bark. Instead, he approaches the layering of tree bark conceptually, translating the textures and typically brown tones into gradations of reds, whites, and blues.
Slippage between signifiers is another running theme in many of the works. “Read” (2018) performs its slippage in the title. It could be a command to sit and read, but it could just as easily be pronounced “red,”which references the painting’s predominant color. The work seems comfortable with either interpretation.
“Blinds” (2018), like “Bark,” is not interested in replicating its namesake in paint. The composition and use of color encourage us to perceive what could be a set of Venetian blinds as a chromatic range of yellow to blue to red, viewing the linear “blinds” as modular and inconsistent. These works seem to ask: What if we saw things this way, as a means to more deeply engage us in looking at our environments?
Color provides the structural support in Fugazzi’s work, but also, like a hinge on a door, it suggests movement. The intensity of the bright pinks in “Loom” (2018) seems to derive from a solid green line on the middle left. There is no doubt that the pink in this painting could set anyone’s rods and cones ablaze. But without that green hinge, the painting would have minimal depth and ferocity.
“Eve” (2018) is more subdued. Apart from the narrow strip of red on the right hand edge, dark blues and purples predominate the canvas. The title suggests at least two readings. Perhaps the most obvious is its reference to Ada m and Eve. The painting’s red, like the apple of yore, beckons the eye, but there are far more compelling issues in the bulk of the painting. Across the left and bottom edges are wide, deep blue lines; another wide line just below the top seems part of the same family. A thinner wash of paint coats the gap between these lines, the linen almost peeking through in some areas. It becomes clear at this point that Fugazzi has reimagined one of the common chestnuts of painting, from Romanticism onwards, the sky at sunset. Without the title “Eve” the painting would be something else entirely. Perhaps Fugazzi’s skill as an abstract painter derives from his background as a representational painter and as a former student of architecture. Both require a thorough understanding of spatial relationships. What I see as hinges in these paintings could also be perceived as support beams in a structure.
As Fugazzi says to Cory in their interview, at the core of an architect’s training is “rigor, pragmatism, and consideration of beauty.” Pragmatism is a concern I have never heard from an abstract painter. To be pragmatic is to be focused on a goal and mostly undeterred by emotional interference. It means getting the job done. Fugazzi’s work suggests he’s aware that he has a purpose in these paintings. But they do not feel cold or overly technical in their execution. They compel us to look, and look again. I feel that the pinks in “Loom” are still burning my eyes. And I say, bring it on.
Oil on linen, 8 x 10 inches (or 10 x 8 inches)
Handheld whispers to myself about the day at hand. Noticing the shifts in weather as they pass.
A series of drawings from a winter spent in Ireland.
We spent days and nights walking on the cold beaches, watching the waves crash and the rivers flow. The tides were consistent yet still surprising, the clouds broadcasting their intentions and defying expectations. Rainbows became common but never commonplace. Fresh and saltwater found each other, fields flooded, gardens survived. We braved the weather and retreated to the comfort of the hearth. In the studio, pigments pooled and collected, moved and changed. Papers curled and buckled. Paint flowed according to its own rules and whims.
With small, uniform sheets of paper, gouache, and a few brushes I set out to make drawings related to my time living on the coast of the saturated island. Rather than recording specific memories, these drawings reflect my experience of Ballycastle as a whole. My hope is that they convey the unique smells, rhythms, character, and intrinsic qualities of the place more richly than if they attempted to capture outward appearances. They are a soft and subtle response to a specific location, offering glimpses of moments that slip past words, becoming objects for reflection.
A book of 72 drawings. In memoriam.
Nearly a year after my mom died, I sat down in my studio and started making drawings. I was searching. I ended up trying to paint a circle on small piece of paper. I kept on trying to do it. None of them were circles, only almost. Each one different, and related to the ones before but unique. After I painted them, I recognized the feeling of what it's like to lose someone you love and live each day without them. This is one of my attempts to better understand grief and loss. The book has 72 drawings, one for each year of my mom's life. They are each the same size, were made with the same intention, and presented in the order they were made.
A NOTE ON THE DRAWINGS
The drawings are printed actual size and presented in the order that they were made. Yasutomo sumi ink and a 1-inch Princeton Select oval mop brush were used on 6.75 x 4.5 inch sheets of Fabriano Mediovalis paper.