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Ben Grasso – Adaptation

Thierry Goldberg Projects
5 Rivington Street, 212-967-2260
East Village / Lower East Side
April 8 - May 15, 2011
Reception: Friday, April 8, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Thierry Goldberg Projects is pleased to present Adaptation, Ben Grasso’s third solo exhibition with the gallery. Here, American landscape painting meets an investigative eye with a touch of Wile E. Coyote’s sensibility, as the works navigate the dire straits, not only of abstraction and representation, photo-realism and phantasmagoria, but also of assembly and disassembly, construction and deconstruction.

With a deftness of hand reminiscent of an Edward Hopper or a Winslow Homer, the artist paints scenes in which his subject—suspended architectural structures—flanked against cloudless skies and freed from the forces of gravity, pivots somewhere between total dissolution and reconstitution. Grasso dismantles spatial and structural arrangements so that they are recombined as much as they are destroyed. The buildings, which most closely resemble the wooden homes so ubiquitous in the artist’s hometown, Cleveland, undergo a process of intense inspection. In –”Construction Proposal #9,” for instance, whether it is due to some accelerated, uncontrollable, and catastrophic force, or, rather, due to some methodical deconstructive hand that has frozen time in order to analyze and perhaps even reconstitute what’s been torn apart, the edifice floats surreally and irresolutely in mid-air. The house is swept up into a vacuum-like, bluish background. The cause and consequence of such sublime disarray is invisible, and thus disconcertingly mysterious. Whatever the cause, what’s clear is that disorientation permeates.

Arrested in an aura of ambiguity, the buildings negotiate perilous planes of bewilderment. The very blueness of the skies, accompanied by the vividness of the palette, and the flurry of semi-abstract leaves that seem to half-engulf the houses, emphasize this very state of confoundedness, reinforcing questions about whether the origin of the turbulence is external or whether these houses are merely self-destructing. The blurring of boundaries and the collapse of space is further emphasized by the confusion of styles, where the distorted topography and the elements of its disordering are detailed at times with the greatest photo-realist precision, and at others in a more abstract manner. In “Lift,” the largely obscured facade of a house tapers off into abstractions of leaves and planks that dissolve in gradations of ocher and beige. Once more, exactly we are seeing is not clear, an aspect that only adds to the complexity with which the American home is here featured.

With a palette that both augments the vividness, and thus the confusion, and even horror, of these unraveled, suspended structures, while amplifying to its sublimity, Grasso lends an unflinching eye in his depictions of the process of decomposition/re-composition. Indeed, as we can see in “Caution,” composition is the right word, since this is precisely what seems to be under scrutiny, as shapes and planes of what can only vaguely be discerned as a house dizzily shift and slip. Through the gorgeously scrupulous conveyance of planks and frames and angles, these paintings are dedicated to the graphic description and analysis of a given emblem—the American home. As dissection sheds light on the anatomical relations among components, viewers get a snapshot of total havoc. And yet whatever might be seriously at stake here, the surrealism of the scene is always there to mediate the experience of viewers, and the images never fail to insist on their acutely wrought artifice.

Finally, Grasso’s paintings are feats of engineering. His is an architecture of the apocalypse, but one whose seams thread shapes we can as yet not fully determine. Excitement and surprise are as much part of this wildly imagined landscape as is a more measured, even nightmarish, uncertainty. Here the whacky, the sublime, and the catastrophic converge upon us unremittingly, but not without grace.

Ben Grasso lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He holds an MFA in painting from Hunter College New York, and a BFA from The Cleveland Institute of Art. He has recently exhibited at Jermoe Zodo, Milan Italy, and at Kinkead Contemporary, Los Angeles, CA. His work has been featured and reviewed by Art in America, Harper’s Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Guernica magazine, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
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