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Inventions: Recent Paintings by Caio Fonseca


WASHINGTON, D.C.- Inventions: Recent Paintings by Caio Fonseca marks the first solo presentation of the artist’s work in a U.S. museum. The exhibition features large-scale paintings and works on paper, specifically created for this exhibition. These works were painted in Manhattan and in the Tuscan village of Pietrasanta where Fonseca has maintained a studio since 1985. Inventions: Recent Paintings by Caio Fonseca is on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art through February 14, 2005.

Resulting from 25 years of sustained studio practice and rigorous technique, Fonseca’s rhythmic abstractions use a methodology he has honed over time. To begin each work, Fonseca marks his canvas in charcoal, establishing proportions according to the Golden Section. “Choosing the ground on which I’m going to start the painting has important implications,” he says. “It’s like choosing the key you’re using for a piece of music. The choice determines the tonal range of the colors I might use.” He then puts down a color composition- over which he paints and discovers his forms. “My abstractions are thoroughly non-narrative, but I place enormous emphasis on animating the forms to give them a self-sustaining life,” says the artist. “I strive for a balance of irreducible elements—a mysterious sense of processional movement.”

With their sensuous color, tactile surfaces and structured compositions, Fonseca’s paintings speak in a rich vocabulary of elemental forms, which resonate with the surrounding world. Fonseca’s compositions maintain a harmonious and delicate lyricism.

“The paintings reveal themselves as a complex of layers and inversions: they’re made, not from the ground up, but up to the ground,” says art critic Daniel Kunitz. “He strips away inessentials to find unalloyed forms by a cumulative procedure, building up the layers. He eliminates by adding.”

What is altogether new in this body of work is Fonseca’s use of connecting bands of color that when revealed through the final surface, constitute a novel way to link forms and explain the movement in his paintings. After the first layer, or ground, Fonseca distributes these marks of paint, which loop, dive or soar across the canvas. From this potential, Fonseca then defines the forms in his paintings through an instinctual process of subtraction.

“These recent paintings are not dependant on drawing,” he explains. “It is impossible to plan the eventual forms of these compositions – an intuitive solution can’t be planned.” He unifies the forms by scratching into the wet paint, making subtle connections between elements using tools collected from cooks, dentists and piano tuners.

“Fonseca is also an accomplished classical pianist and there is a definite musicality evident in his work,” notes Corcoran Chief Curator Jacquelyn Serwer. “But he also continues the tradition of the great modern painters, such as Seurat, Mondrian and Rothko, who revel in both the Dionysian qualities of the pigment and the Apollonian order of a balanced and structured composition.”

Born in 1959 and raised in New York City, Fonseca painted in Barcelona, Paris, and Italy from 1979 to 1990. His work is included in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Smithsonian Institution, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Art, Houston; several United States Embassies, including the U. S. mission to the United Nations, as well as numerous major national and international collections. In addition, he has completed mural commissions for architect Cesar Pelli at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC and for Renzo Piano’s Bovis Lend Lease building, Aurora Place, in Sydney, Australia.






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