For his third solo exhibition at Stene Projects, Sylvan Lionni presents two new bodies of work, Stack, a series of altered steel folding chairs, and Standard, large scale, shaped black monochromes.
In Stack, those who are familiar with Lionni’s recent projects will recognize an on-going theme: quotidian objects that, under the artist’s careful manipulation, engineering, or recreation, press themselves up against the border between language and object. Made of folding chairs that are seemingly in flux between fission and fusion, glommed together and defying gravity in preposterous intersections, Lionni confounds the viewer’s learned expectations of how folding chairs stack. In the disarray and disorder of their combinations, the formal qualities of the chairs emerge en force, emphasized by their highly chromatic, powder-coated surfaces. Lionni draws our attention to lines spilling into planes, curvatures terminating in mid-air; the whole chair is a painting, and seeing it as such is both sinister in its dead-pan humor and an invitation to a real investigation of paintings hidden in plain sight.
In Standard, Lionni reflects upon the notion of the black monochrome, a well explored, championed, bemoaned, and resurging ideological position of modern painting. The artist has described the making of these new black monochromes as an internal challenge, a test or kind of discipline, to measure one’s ability as a painter to focus on what might constitute a default mode of painting. Though free of gesture, up-close the paintings are pregnant with subtle complexities, changes in black, the quietly flecked surface of fleshy canvas hugging the structure of the painting in nearly airtight precision. At a distance, these surfaces hang not as visual planes but as coordinates, segments, parcels, divisions of the white wall.
As with the brightly colored and unambiguous surfaces of Stack and much of Lionni’s recent activity, this new exhibition highlights the artist’s insistence on painting as a tangible way to measure reality. That by measuring the world in the meter-stick of painting, we can return to familiar subjects and objects as unexpected and alien.