New York

Marco Gastini

John Weber Gallery

I know nothing about Marco Gastini. I did not ask anything about him. I have never seen any of his other work, and I have never read anything about him. So there, in the empty gallery, I had nothing to fall back on. I could be a naif. I prepared myself to be “uninitiated,” and operated under those conditions.

The show consisted of a large number of different-sized, but rather smallish canvases. These were arranged at random, as far as I could tell, although there was a vague crosslike arrangement on one of the walls. Each wall was covered from top to bottom, although not necessarily side to side from top to bottom. Whether they went together as one room, or as separate walls, was absolutely not clear (and maybe not important). Anyhow, on some, but not all, of the canvases were lines. On some, but not all, of the canvases with lines, there were short, horizontal shaky lines, none covering the whole area of any one canvas. On some, but not all, of the canvases with shaky horizontal lines, there were tentative, black, angular lines, which resisted either horizontal or vertical orientation. Some, but not all, of these black lines were broken.

Now, I have described Gastini’s work so that it would appear there was quite a variety of things to see, when in fact there was not. That is using Gastini’s ploy, since he leads the viewer to expect a lot by covering so large an area with these canvases. For such small, tentative marks, the viewer may ask, why the grandiose presentation?

It seems almost ridiculous to compare Cavallon and Gastini, but the same question arises with both: what does their art mean? Such a question seems typical of the naive viewer. Cavallon gives us an experience of light. Gastini gives us the handmade line. Still, what does it mean? We have learned not to ask the question of modern art; we are told to “experience.” So we could, as viewers, approach the art in the Minimalist fashion, as being just what it is, subject to our likes or dislikes, just another experience in the world of phenomena. But does the viewer have something to get from such an experience? Or, more pointedly, does the art have anything to offer? Cavallon is more obviously involved in “expression”: his “self” expression. We can then quite validly say that we either like or dislike his “self.” But nowadays, we would be hard put to say that Gastini is involved with such a “romantic” notion. And if his art is not about himself, what is it about? Something outside himself?

But I am not the naif. Gastini uses the prop of preconditioning; he does not bother to engage me on some bodily, physical level as Cavallon does. I am denied even that. He subverts both what can be experienced as new by demanding indoctrination and what can be confirmed as authentic by contextual intentionality. What is the viewer’s point of access? Gastini’s paintings’ intentions remain dormant but, worse, they do not suggest or extend a mode of entry. So it is in that that we fail to discern their meaning.

Jeff Perrone