It’s a pleasant paradox: sometimes the greatest impact results from the gentlest touch. Such is the case with the work of Giorgio Griffa (born 1936, Torino, Italy), whose woozy, organic abstractions are currently on display in “Fragments,” a solo exhibition at Casey Kaplan Gallery. Griffa’s work is driven by gestures that are at once both even-handed and whimsical, resulting in paintings that create a delightful tension between the spontaneous and the inevitable.
Like other process-driven artists, Griffa describes his practice as a “constant and never finished” exploration of the relationship between pigment and material. Griffa applies acrylic pigment to unstretched and ungessoed canvas and linen, the absorptive spread of the paint dictating the next mark. After the painting is finished, Griffa neatly folds the loose material into even sections and stores it away in an archive until an occasion arises for it to be displayed. Each finished work can be thought of as an unbound page in a diary without end (or that ends when the artist finally abandons his practice).
A great part of the beauty in Griffa’s work is derived from the de facto grid created by the unfolded textile, an undeniable mark of the passage of time. The paintings themselves are whisper-quiet masterpieces, subtle and alive with tactile depth and the delicate interplay of a rainbow of muted tones. Given the restraint with which Griffa applies paint to fabric, the chromatic richness of each piece is a marvelous surprise.
Griffa has written that his works are about memory, and what is memory except consciousness filtered through time? The installation of the works in the gallery amplifies the wistful, wandering narrative of Griffa’s works, underscoring the fact that each of us pieces together a unique comprehension of the world based on bits and shreds of sensory input, our subconscious connecting the dots and creating a foundation for our life that seems less tenuous than it actually is. Griffa’s works are a light-hearted reminder of the thinness of that meniscus. Wandering from room to room in the gallery space, absorbing the wide range of Griffa’s practice, it’s hard not to think of the great twentieth-century writer Donald Barthelme’s famous salvo, “Fragments are the only form I trust.”
Giorgio Griffa’s “Fragments” runs through March 2 at Casey Kaplan, 525 West 21st Street, New York. Images courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York. Photography by Jean Vong.