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Untitled (Cathedral of Light)
Robert Longo, 2008

 
       
 

Robert Longo @MetroPictures

 
 

Better to light a candle...

   

 

  

 

...than to curse the darkness!

We took a walk down to Chelsea the other day to take in something old and new….the ancient art of charcoal drawing which gets a marvelous modern update in Robert Longo's exhibition of recent work, Surrendering the Absolutes.

The art of representation is really the art of drawing light - of light itself, of the way light reflects off objects or bodies, of shadows, of darkness.  With charcoal, color is reduced to black and white and all the shades of gray.  A softer, more romanticized vision, for it is really the art of shadows….  The play of light on soft darkness, of the reductionism of black-and-white, the subtle effect of chiaroscuro, a technique used by artists as different as Caravaggio and de la Tour, all used to powerful effect by the former bad boy of the 80's downtown art scene.  Longo's work borders on tenebrism, exaggerated contrasts of light and dark, which make these drawings almost abstractions, less about naturalistic rendering.

The centerpiece of the show is a brilliant five-panel drawing Untitled (Cathedral of Light).  Sunlight floods the space of a church-like interior -- these worshippers are here, like Longo, to pay homage to the light.  Then there is the eerie light that tentatively filters through the trees in a primeval-looking forest in Untitled (Et in Arcadia Ego) -- the title alluding to Poussin's titles for two of his 17th century pastoral paintings (Poussin himself alluded to Virgil - even in Arcadia, death exists).  

 

 

The lighted windows of an airplane at night in Untitled (Windows at Night) (above) become an abstract composition of lighted plane windows against hull, of hull against the glowing darkness of space….in this and every work here, one is intensely conscious of light.

 

 

Untitled (City of Glass) is based on a satellite view of Tokyo….roadways that look like fissures in a piece of shattered glass.  A city fragile, lighted filaments that stretch out like a web.  Longo, famous for his Men in the Cities series in the 80s offers something far more luminous in this small and perfect show…. and well worth a stroll to visit on a sunny May day….

 

Visit: Robert Longo, Surrendering the Absolutes, Metro Pictures

 

 

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