New York

Beatrice Caracciolo

Charles Cowles Gallery

There were three kinds of works in Beatrice Caracciolo’s recent exhibition: exquisitely animated abstract expressionist drawings; others that look more like landscapes (and which introduce art-historically familiar material in the form of allusions to Chinese landscape and Japanese calligraphy), and unexpectedly bold suspended or freestanding sculptures comprised of zinc sheets mounted on wooden substructures.

The excited lines of the drawings—small and intimate compared to the immense planar sculptures—and the textures of the sculptures—gray mottled with luminous streaks—both signal Caracciolo’s preoccupation with touch and surface. The resolutely abstract geometric sculptures form whole environments, yet their surfaces have the same tactile quality as the drawings. This is ingrained in the very fabric of the zinc rather than “applied” to its surface, but the peculiar mixture of raw and refined consistencies is present in both forms.

The compositions of these two different bodies of work also have an odd resemblance: The zinc planes are variously sized and eccentrically arranged, as are the tangled lines of the drawings. Interestingly, where the planes align there is a conspicuous break in surface that looks like an incision and stands out with a curious stridency, as though existing independently of the bleak atmosphere surrounding it. These “fault lines” or seams signal the constructed nature of the work but also have an expressive assertiveness and appeal that brings them into an ironic relationship with the seemingly more quixotic lines of the drawings.

In Caracciolo’s more-or-less completely abstract drawings, instinct is alive and well, while in those that suggest landscape it becomes self-contained and civilized and in the sculptures diffuses into melancholic atmosphere alleviated by beatific moments of light. Caracciolo, however unwittingly, retraces the development of gesturalism from the free play of what post-Freudian theorist Anton Ehrenzweig calls nongestalt form(lessness) through more formally controlled imagery to a final stage of gestalt-form(alization) and system(ization).

Ironically, the sense of ultimate inwardness that Harold Bloom argues is achieved by the best art is most evident in the sculptures, in which impulsive gesture fades to a subliminal suggestion, and the determined force evident in the works on paper seems muted, a melancholy residue. There is a tragic energy in Caracciolo’s drawings; it’s there in the gray that seems to shadow the black lines of the abstract works and in the quasi landscapes’ mountainous outlines. The question is, when this pall lifts, what kind of future will stand revealed?

Donald Kuspit