Gino De Dominicis

Gino De Dominicis refuses to allow his work to be photographed or otherwise mediated, preferring that the viewer experience it in person. Though his position could be interpreted as an assault on the public, accustomed to glossy art books and catalogues, it is in fact a passionate defense of the inherent physicality of the art object. Thus, in order to view his work one must embark on a kind of religious pilgrimage.

In the mid ’80s his conceptual and arte povera–related work provoked academic discussions about the tradition of painting and the nature of perception, discussions which his more recent work continues. His panels are painted with saturated colors often laden with symbolism, such as blue and gold, colors often used as metaphors for infinity. Onto these colored fields the artist traces tenuous images in silverpoint or pure graphite; both difficult to read and seemingly mutable, these images consist at times of profiles of bodies—semihuman, semidivine—resembling Sumerian statuettes which De Dominicis has invoked in the past. The paintings at times also depict planets and other astral bodies—the moon, for example—that seem to commune with anthropomorphic figures.

Planets, man, the archaic, the infinite: these could be the ingredients of a longing for the ineffable, the sublime. But as always, in De Dominicis’ work the context in which his work is presented only underscores his continuing vocation as a conceptual artist—even now, when he seems on the surface to be dedicating himself to a valorization of painting. It might appear thathis work is an attempt to redefine the art object as sacred, but in fact the reverse is true, because the context in which the work is presented is of paramount importance to De Dominicis. In this case, for example, he divided the Stein gallery into four areas, so that the paintings could not be viewed together, though minimal variations among them suggested they were all closely connected. By erecting walls that prevented visitors from seeing all of the work at once, De Dominicis forced the viewer to look and commit what he or she had seen to memory in order to try and make sense of the whole.

Ultimately, De Dominicis achieves what is, in light of his history of involvement with conceptualism, an almost paradoxical result. He restores dignity to painting by emphasizing the context in which it is perceived and interpreted—in the process underlining both the physical nature of the art object and its dependence on language and memory.

Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.