New York

Antonio Segui

Lefebre Gallery

Through the years the Argentinian painter Antonio Segui has offered a provocative and personal interpretation of various idioms, ranging from impressionist to so-called magical genres. His recent paintings and pastels belong to the latter category. Silent, without atmosphere, Segui’s urban, jungle and beach scenes are South American/European in style, setting and feeling. Stressing a caricature kind of drawing, simplifying both the facial features and silhouettes of the figures, his work brings to mind images by Henri Rousseau, George Grosz, and Fernand Léger, among others. What’s magical about the imagery is its power to convey different “modern” states of mind—loneliness, alienation, boredom.

Each scene, composed of enigmatic figures going about their private and public business in a shallow, ambiguous space, is curiously self-contained and stagelike: in one, a character sits alone in a barely furnished interior, or, in another, “citizens” are putting out a fire. By asking unanswerable “who, what, why” questions, the paintings transform viewers into involved spectators, a status which is emphasized by the presence in the paintings of a character called “Sir.” Dressed in a suit and fedora, “Sir” appears in a beach scene wearing a tie with the word “Amore” on it. Segui’s protagonist is sometimes a voyeur. We can imagine him fantasizing about the painting’s doll-sized, female nude bather and her male companion. “Sir” turns up in the other paintings and pastels, but his shape, except for the suit and hat, always changes, inviting speculation as to his identity. These paintings have an immediacy that the work of Segui, who has lived in New York for the last ten years, shares with the current figurative fare. His pictures, however, reflect a sensibility that is light years away from funky, Chicago-influenced illustration.

Ronny H. Cohen