The Andrew Kreps Gallery is pleased to present Ricci Albenda’s fifth exhibition at the gallery and his first painting show at the gallery since 2004. It comprises thirteen large word works, each six feet high and ranging from six to ten feet wide. All of the works share a blue ground based on the color of the sky. Like his prior word paintings these works are at their core about perception, cognition, and language. These new paintings, however, evoking a gallery of great windows, are also about light, and air.
To create these language-based paintings Albenda has continued to utilize his alphabetic colorization system, COLOR-I-ME-TRY, which dates to very early in his career. This highly evolved system is still the basic rubric by which the paintings are created, but this most recent series of works can be seen as a significant departure insofar that the system is endemic rather than overt. Rather than the color system being the Rosetta Stone by which all works in the show can be understood, each painting is its own universe, rendered with its own unique palette and strategy.
The original system mapped the alphabet onto the natural spectrum. Every letter thus has its own particular hue value, and every word rendered through the system has its own distinct color pattern. Albenda sees this as largely utopian, and has thus expanded its functionality to accommodate real-world media. He last developed it into a series of monochromatic palettes that correspond to his vowel hues in the basic system; a – red, e – orange, i – yellow, o – green, u – blue, and (sometimes) y – purple. Each new palette retains the original hue identities of the basic system, albeit through a color filter of that palette’s defining hue. Now, for this show, every painting utilizes a COLOR-I-ME-TRY palette corresponding to the one blue color on which they all are painted – however – no two palettes are the same: even within the constraint of a single hue this system has an unlimited range.
The background upon which the “text” is painted emulates the color of the sky, which is unique in being experienced as a single and consistent visual field from innumerable points of view. It is elusive while being omnipresent. The spatial ambiguity associated with the color fosters the experience of the works as windows, as does limiting the works to three standard sizes. The paintings are hung with a constant and unusually small amount of wall space between them, which recalls mullions or columns. Albenda is ultimately a perceptualist. His work always at its foundation explores the fundaments of cognition whether they be linguistic, visual, temporo-spatial or otherwise. For this show the works conspire toward a lighter, if no less lofty goal. One might imagine the gallery as an abstraction of the Acropolis, or the penthouse of an exceedingly tall building.
Ricci Albenda has shown extensively in the United States at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Rachofsky Foundation in Dallas, Texas, as well as the Institiute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Site Santa Fe, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, and the New Museum in New York. Internationally he has exhibited at museums including the Institute of Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, in Torino, Italy, the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, (S.M.A.K) in Gent, Belgium, Centre Pompidou in Paris, and at the Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art.