NEW YORK, NY.- In Luca Dellaverson's first solo exhibition, shattered transparent or mirrored sheets of glass are embedded in poured resin casts of stretched canvas. The resulting dimensional works register frontally as compositional paintings, but are more accurately described as reliefs or wall sculptures - the dimensions of which are determined by those of a painting. Their identities are further complicated by their degrees of transparency; because the resin takes on the form of the canvas, their surfaces are nubbed and cloudy; they trap rather than reflect light, and mask the view of the reflective surfaces within them. Some of the glass stays intact within the plastic; the faces of these are painted in a coat of gesso, which is sometimes sanded off. Fissures in the plastic reveal sections of the surface underneath.
Dellaverson's earliest visual works were non-narrative experimental films in the modernist tradition, in which Dellaverson treated the surfaces of the 16mm film substrate with chemical interventions, overexposure, physical taxation, until their images were withered by degradation or violently ruptured. The glassworks are a reexamination of these early explorations of the visible effects of stress on a support, in this case itself a substitute or reinvention. Their engagement with light and its diffusion invites these works further into the realm of the filmic.
Dellaverson tells me that his glass works are erotic, and refers his glass-exploding back to the famous breakage of Duchamp's "Large Glass." These works are materially sterile, severe, and beautiful but rather frank approximations of organic events. Besides the "Large Glass," however, itself charged with insinuations, Duchamp famously channeled the erotic through his female alter-ego, Rrose Sellavy. Besides the well-known pun on "eros" and titillating gender play, there is something subtler at work in Rrose/Duchamp: the erotic as an instrument that both precludes and demands empathy.
Then again, a mirror is always an erotic article, and further eroticized when obscured. In Wendy Lesser's His Other Half, which examines male artists' work about women, she describes the simultaneous ineradicable division and attraction inherent in the artist's relationship with the object of desire. "Over and over," she writes, "one image kept returning to me: the image of the mirror. It is a mirror, however, in which the portrait one gets back is not the self one expects, but the lost self for which one searches. Thus...Hitchcock sees his frightened blonde heroines; Degas sees his soft, oblivious nudes; and I - the female critic, looking in - find the male artist peering out at me."
In Dellaverson's work, like Lesser, I find myself in the awkward but increasingly unexceptional position of viewer and, in another sense, viewed.Formally, the works'surfaces are not made in their own image; they iterate the material pressures and chemical forces of the resin's hardening; the enclosed glass is subjected to inexorable violence, to mortification.
A photograph Dellaverson took while making these works portrays a nude woman lying on a bed, her face obscured by an open book with a portrait of Duchamp on its cover. Her body winks at the Olympia, all the more charged by her face being hidden from view; like the mirror, she is masked, in this case by the image of the artist. Here, the mirror is not only erotic, but is itself female, and the converse works too: a woman is always a mirror.No wonder, then, that when viewing these works, I view myself.