For his first solo exhibition at Freight + Volume, New York-based Sylvan Lionni will present a series of solar panel paintings. These new works act as an extension of the artist’s fascination with the aesthetic and conceptual properties inherent within the banal objects of everyday life – an idea revisited throughout Lionni’s many bodies of work.
Lionni appropriates the forms of industrial articles and strips them of their utilitarian purpose. This strategy translates these sources – faded American flag stickers, lotto tickets and computer keypads – into a unique lineage of dead-pan picture making. His expertly crafted hard-edged works display a labor-intensive painting process, while retaining a deceptive but devout allegiance to the handmade. Despite their machine-like effects, they are rendered with alternative materials and non-traditional painting methods.
Lionni’s solar panels and the artist’s process in general sit somewhere between abstraction and representation. Re-contextualizing forms and imagery that subscribe to a specific painterly means, Lionni thereby spawns a new brand of “conceptual abstraction”.
“The paintings’ purpose as objects for consideration is reinforced merely by their being indoors; the natural habitat for most painting is the last place an actual solar panel can do its job. Out of direct sunlight and sheltered from the elements, the impostor panels are subject to the peculiar scrutiny we offer to art.
By being placed in an aestheticized context, they point up the fact that the most conventional opposition to solar energy has been aesthetic; the high-tech appearance of solar collectors doesn’t mesh with the pre-modern architectural forms that, even in bastardized fashion, continue to shape most contemporary building. In the wake of the industrial revolution, the production and consumption of energy were driven apart—largely owing to the offense given by production to the eye, ear, or nose—and energy became invisible, a kind of magic known only through its effects. Sylvan’s unique brand of conceptual abstraction pushes the image of energy production back in front of us. He demands that we see how the trick is done.” – Excerpted from “Daylight Saving Time” by Glen Dixon, 2008.