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End Game Aesthetics at Spinello Gallery

Aramis Gutierrez, "End Game Aesthetics," oil on Canvas, 2013

Aramis Gutierrez, one of a triptych titled “End Game Aesthetics,” oil on Canvas, 2013

The series of pale, nearly monochromatic paintings by Aramis Gutierrez, currently on view at Spinello Projects, represent a fresh exploration of some of painting’s most traditional devices: light as the definer of form, the brushstroke as the unit of expression, the overall sentiment behind the idea of “the artist’s touch.”

A number of connoisseurs of painting, notably Bernard Berenson, considered Venetian painting of the 1500s as the most influential and defining era of Western oil painting. It was the era of Renaissance greats such as Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Giorgione, among others.

Two defining aspects of Venetian painting that recurred later with Velasquez, Rembrandt, and eventually the French Impressionists arguably include:

1. The use of robust and fluid brushwork that transcends the mere exercise of copying nature and instead attempts a simulation of the vivid, quasi-tactile visual experience.

2. The attempt to render the reflective and refractive properties of light, the arbiter of form, unto canvas.

Gutierrez is clearly and interestingly engaged in these concerns, even if his paintings don’t have any immediately obvious connection to Veronese or Degas. Nonetheless, when theory and concept are the contemporary art world’s front-burner aesthetic themes, painting that concerns itself with the old-school visual/ocular experience, like that of End Game Aesthetics, can seem fresh, and in this case, feel newly sensual.

The large triptych on view in the main room of the second floor – representing three views of a dance rehearsal space – responds well to the full spectrum of fluorescent gallery lighting; the odd mauve palette seems strangely and almost annoyingly moody at first, but it may be the purposefully limited palette that allows the viewer to focus on the reflection and refraction of light. The light that’s present in these paintings appears to shine in through windows, off mirrors and floors and chairs. It’s as if one mentally blinks, adjusts their vision, and recognizes the heated glare of South Florida’s relentless scrubbing light on an empty room.

This series is no lab experiment though. The consistently coarse strokes of paint – nearly as savage as Tintoretto’s liberated stabs – are as consistent and focused as those of a Monet Haystack. Presumably, it is this highly charged brushwork that allows these studies to retain so strong a sense of not just human presence, but of the whole story of effort, labor, and aspiration – as exemplified by the dance student, gone from view after a day of laboring with his or her own routine corpus.

Aramis Gutierrez, "After No Exit," oil on Canvas, 2013

Aramis Gutierrez, “After No Exit,” oil on Canvas, 2013

Other paintings in the show include human figures. These, the smaller paintings of the exhibition, include ”After No Exit” and manage the problem of representing the unique reflection of light off of human skin in ways more consistent with the limited palette.

That said, the rendition of facial expression, and of the functioning human body, are well-articulated within the robust vocabulary of Gutierrez’s brushwork, even if they don’t possess the subtle power of the hauntingly empty triptych canvasses.

Aramis Gutierrez, "Amedeo Amodio," oil on canvas, 2013

Paradoxically, in the work titled “Amadeo Amodio,” which contains a male dancer thrust to the forefront of the canvas space with a well-executed and intense facial expression, holds too much information when considered alongside the more contemplative canvasses of the triptych. It’s as if the intense figure steals the whole show, leaving the spatial experience of the tryptich as a kind of supplement. Even the seated nazi-looking figure in the background of this canvas seems to take the viewer on a relatively anecdotal  narrative trip that bears less interest than the more purely ‘painterly’ and more deeply aesthetic experience of the End Game Aesthetics triptych[.]

This post was contributed by David Rohn.

See a discussion held with Aramis Gutierrez on End Game Aesthetics, moderated by Amanda Sanfilippo:

End-Game Aesthetics can be seen at Spinello Projects, 2930 NW 7th Avenue, Miami, FL 33127.

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End Game Aesthetics at Spinello Gallery