New York

Lucio Pozzi

John Weber Gallery

On a sheerly visual level—if that counts for anything these antiesthetic days—this was a stunning show Lucio Pozzi’s paintings are sufficiently ironic to avoid being emptily gorgeous, and sufficiently libidinal to avoid the authoritarian, mechanical negativism of much current ironic art. The majority of the works here were from the ’80s (3 of the 11 works were from the ’70s). To me, they cast a fresh light on the already stale issue of Post-Modernist abstraction. All are eccentrically “derivative,” not in any negative sense but in that they rearticulate a familiar abstract language idiomatically, with a kind of deft whimsy. With virtuosic, controlled abandon, Pozzi utilizes thinly painted, well-mannered gestures at once to mark planar flatness and evoke the sense of a possible, but defiantly indefinite, image. (Hands on the Door, 1982, and Port Harbour’s Spell and Master, both 1983, are examples of such latently imagistic work.)

The major issue in art today is the death of art, a theme that first reared its ugly head with Marcel Duchamp and the Dadaists. The new antiart of neomechanical reproduction (in whatever medium) has paradoxically given new life to art, in that it doesn’t have the rebellious, conflating energy of the old, suicidal antiart. What makes Pozzi’s neoabstraction important is that while it partakes in the Post-Modernist version of the death of art—the empty elaboration of art as a secondary, “redundant” phenomenon—it reanimates, through the simulation of a codified style, a sense of peculiarly urgent, just-out-of-reach fantasy that is irreconcilable with and imprisoned by the coherent, stylistically familiar surface.

The whimsical center of Pozzi’s The Only Entrance, 1982, and the additive linear touches of Rain Paint, 1972, are like artifacts that seem to have spontaneously emerged from the repeated examination of the same old surface. It is as though he—and we—were looking for something known to have been overlooked, something in memory that was not particularly memorable but nonetheless becomes surprisingly essential once it emerges. It is not the surprise of the new but the surprise of the missing piece in the puzzle of the art—the surprise that comes from making the art once again puzzling, “surreal.” Pozzi shows us not only the witty, archaeologistic potential of neoabstraction but also how the determined copulation (coping/copying) with an old, collectively used and abused esthetic surface can spawn an art with an idiosyncratic identity.

Donald Kuspit