Notations/Joseph Marioni: Paintings, 2000–2015
At the Philadelphia Museum of Art
November 14, 2015 - May 22, 2016
Experience and contemplate the interplay of light and color in Joseph Marioni’s paintings.
For artist Joseph Marioni, the primary function of painting is to advance the experience of color through the interaction of light and paint pigments. Building on experiments in American abstraction since the 1950s—particularly those of Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, and Robert Ryman—Marioni’s paintings inspire attentive, sustained looking.
At first appearing monochromatic (one color), Marioni’s canvases produce color sensations that shift with changes in light and viewpoint. In fact, each work features several distinct layers of acrylic paint of contrasting colors and intensities. Through unhurried contemplation, we can gain a deeper understanding that color is not a fixed entity, but rather subject to fluctuations of light and our perception.
Light is central to Marioni’s practice, which aims to present painting, in his own words, as “an object of light, bound by its architecture, in the time of its viewing.” Selected by the artist himself, the paintings in this installation represent a focused survey of his work.
Notations is an ongoing series of gallery installations named after a book by John Cage, an American composer, writer, and visual artist widely celebrated for his experimental approach to the arts. The series serves as a flexible tool to explore contemporary art.
Curators: Carlos Basualdo, The Keith L. and Katherine Senior Curator of Contemporary Art; and Anna Mecugni, Sachs Collection Research Assistant
Location: Alter Gallery 176, first floor, the Philadelphia Museum of Art
I am working within the general frame of reference that the practice of painting, as an art form, is in the midst of a significant change. Painters are moving away from storytelling in the composition of the picture-form and towards the structural identity of the painting’s own painted-form. We are in a transition out of pictorial representation and into concrete actualization. The primary focus of this transition is towards the recognition of the unalienable condition of the painting’s own being, and this is a fundamental paradigm shift in how we understand the art of painting.
For the past one hundred years painters have worked through ideas of abstraction to find some internal dynamic of its own practice. We have struggled with issues of application, boundaries, scale, color, and presentation. The second half of the twentieth century saw the establishment of drawing as an independent art form. In this the paint material is used as a marking substance, and color is secondary to the specific performance of the gesture. The focus of its attention is on the information of production. What is now beginning to emerge, in the 21st century, is an understanding of painting per se—that is, the recognition of the integrity of its own materials and the autonomy of those materials to act upon us. This painted-form addresses the nature of being.
It is a rather simple logic that the reason we stretch up a canvas to put on a wall is not for the delimitation of its flatness. We prepare the surface, as all practitioners of the art know—to be painted. And the function of the paint itself is to carry pigment. And pigment divides light. So, in one form or another, all paintings are fundamentally membranes of divided light.
Joseph Marioni's studio, Tamaqua, PA. Photo: François Bisi. 2015 © Paul Rodgers / 9W
We recognize light only by the division of its wavelengths and in that regard I am working within the idea that the reason we distinguish four primary color groupings within the light spectrum is because they are archetypes. Within the thousands of color variations the eye can see, we identify four colors that do not resemble each other. We index them as green, yellow, red, and blue; and like earth, air, fire, and water, they occupy some primordial identity within the human condition. As archetypes, however, these colors do not have meaning in and of themselves and only acquire meaning in the context of how they are used. So, if you paint green in the same manner you paint red, it may indicate that you are drawing with paint rather than presenting the color. It is the painted quality of the color that determines the practice of painting per se, and in the architecture of concrete painting function follows light.
What we are beginning to realize is that when we have achieved the full realization of an actualized painting, when we have stripped away all the worldly decor of the day, and come to look upon the unadorned flesh of its body—just paint on canvas—what we see emanating from its body is dematerialized light. The material reveals the immaterial, and the great paradox of our modernity is our expectation that it should be something other than what it is.