In his exhibition entitled Paintings, Francesco Longenecker presents new medium and large-scale abstract works that are a complex synthesis of references as diverse as abstract masterpieces, street art, and flea market finds. Equally varied are the artist’s experimentations with paint application, surface qualities, and intuitive development of shapes. Through his search for distortion and disguise, Longenecker plumbs the tension among these visual disjunctives
While one recognizes in his paintings the art historical references to de Kooning, Diebenkorn, Gorky, Hofmann, Mitchell, and early Rothko, Longenecker places his work in a contemporary context by infusing it with his interest in the physicality of graffiti – more specifically the struggle of layering that he has noticed when large blocks of paint that attempt to match the original wall color are used to cover over graffiti marks. In Canopy (2008), a landscape appears to be the final layer, seeming to block our view of earlier layers of paint. Yet an ambiguity arises as to whether the landscape is obstructing our view of what lies beneath or is in fact being blocked by what our eye may have fooled us into thinking are earlier passages. Longenecker moves beyond this area of inquiry by replicating the effects of color separation in early printing processes and the discoloration resulting from fading that is found in vintage stereoscopic slides of landscapes. These traits are observable in Field (2008), which also exhibits a camouflage pattern akin to the effect created by a double exposure in photography.
Experimenting constantly with application and searching for new tools to apply paint, Longenecker sets up differences not only with value and color but also with texture and pattern. He achieves this by pulling paint off the surface with a squeegee or reapplying removed paint with the edge of a ruler, as in Landing (2008), where burnt sienna is applied and then scrapped off to create a pattern of line as well as an optical mixing of color. The artist often mixes paint from the can or tube directly on the canvas before moving it around. He works up some areas to a polished finish while he leaves others open and dry. Surfaces become a combination of variations of applications, hues, and densities, all enhancing and also becoming, in part, the subjects of the paintings.
Regularly painting a new painting directly on top of an old one, Longenecker never plans a work out in advance. He has no predetermined idea of how the final image should look – each decision is a reaction to the previous one. This process leaves opportunity for chance and peculiarity and lets a painting evolve with more improvisation and less intention. It allows images to remain enigmatic and retain their suspension, with the potential to become many things.