As people on the streets viewed sculptural paintings brought into the gallery for the exhibition Love is found in bleeding, they asked: “Is this the work of Leah Guadagnoli?” It may be apocryphal, but the 10 pieces on display prove that Guadagnoli created a sensitivity that she can call his own.
Guadagnoli’s multi-part 3-D canvases – made of polyurethane foam and insulation boards on LusterBoard, painted in acrylics, shaded to burst like a wad of phosphorescent bubble gum – are neither strictly paint nor the sculpture. “Sculpture painting” is the term used by the artist to designate his bas-reliefs. Where Guadagnoli’s early works reflected the styles of Italian designers from the Memphis group and incorporated Kandinsky-style triangles and circles for a deliberately kitsch effect, works in Love is found in bleeding no longer paying homage to anything or anyone outside of your own vision.
The exhibition, Guadagnoli’s first solo show with Hollis Taggart, is a maturation of the sharp geometric shapes that previously dominated his aesthetic. Instead, she focuses on softer, more natural outlines in nine murals, as well as a tenth piece, a bench made of swirling blues, violets and creams, aptly titled “Resting Place” (all works 2021).
The 10 pieces (playfully titled “The Night is Neutral” and “Fireworks are Wasted in the Day,” for example), were “made in a process of loss, grief and recovery”, like the press release emphasizes. Nowhere is there an austere note, however. Smooth surfaces and flowing petal-like shapes, shaded in warm colors, triumph over any sense of sadness. My favorite piece, “Glow (In the Dark)”, is an oblong shape divided into eight sections, each painted in a shade of green or purple. The left central column is painted a fuchsia that would give the impression that a flat surface was trying to transcend its two dimensions. The parts that make up the whole of the works do not fit together perfectly, but this is precisely what makes them organic. Viewers can almost imagine Guadagnoli working on the assembly in the Hudson Valley Church where she works and lives.
Stripped of the ironic ’80s flair that characterized his previous work, what remains is something totally human and fun. Consider “Floral Futurism / Fortune Teller,” with its variegated oranges and yellows, resembling a cartoon banana ready to send you flying across the kitchen floor. Additionally, the title “Love Lies Bleeding” features a monochrome palette of pink tears coiled together, each section hugging tightly, inviting the eye to bask in the colors, which originate from the flowering plant from which the piece takes its name. .
The press release calls Guadagnoli’s sensibility kitsch. Czech novelist Milan Kundera said: “Kitsch… must derive from the basic images that people have carved in their memories”. With these new painting-sculptures, the artist no longer relies on nostalgia for kitsch, does not look to the past, but advances, if not towards the future, at least the present.
Leah Guadagnoli: Love is found in bleeding continues at the Hollis Taggart Gallery (521 West 26th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through November 13.
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