Li Trincere's Hard Edge, Geometric Paintings from 1980s to 2022 in two simultaneous exhibitions at David Richard Gallery

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Li Trincere's Hard Edge, Geometric Paintings from 1980s to 2022 in two simultaneous exhibitions at David Richard Gallery
Installation View: Li Trincere: Hard Edge, Geometric Paintings: 1986 - 1990, David Richard Gallery, 2023. Copyright Li Trincere. Courtesy David Richard Gallery, LLC.

NEW YORK, NY.- David Richard Gallery is currently presenting two simultaneous exhibitions by New York artist Li Trincere that span four decades of her studio practice focused on hard edge, geometric paintings. The first presentation includes earlier paintings dating from the late 1980s through the early 1990s. The second presentation debuts her newest series of paintings created in 2022 as well as selections of recent paintings from 2021, both conceived and created during the covid pandemic and funded with the assistance of a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. While the primary focus of both exhibitions is Trincere’s paintings, drawings are an integral part of her art making and produced in parallel with paintings. Both paintings and drawings are conceived and produced as stand alone works and rarely is there a painting corresponding directly to a drawing. Each presentation includes a selection of representative drawings corresponding to each time period, all are all produced with Caren D’ache wax crayon on BFK paper measuring 22 x 30 inches in a standard horizontal format.

This exhibition is not a retrospective, but rather a close look at two discrete bodies of work separated by three decades. A lot happened aesthetically for Trincere in those intervening decades: exploring complex geometric shapes; combining and layering internal shapes with the literal perimeters of the canvases; creating internal compositional torque and tension; contrasting matte versus sheen surfaces; adding metallic flecks; combining spatial depth with complimentary perimeters of canvases. These empirical approaches all led to Trincere's signature color palettes, internal banding and corresponding vector shapes (iconic shards of negative space), pristine surfaces, literal shapes, and illusory space. Taking inspirations and external influences and making them her own visual language brought more than nuance to her paintings, they map a successful trajectory and thoughtful maturation realized in the newer paintings. Many of the series of paintings from the past two decades have been the subject of three solo exhibitions since 2018 at David Richard Gallery.

Throughout her career Trincere has remained committed to non-objective painting focusing solely on primary shapes (squares, polygons, quadrilaterals, trapezoids, X’s, and various combinations and permutations as noted above) and using primary colors to provide a pop and contrast against reductive palettes of mostly black and white. The more things change in the world around her, both culturally and aesthetically, in New York City and the art world respectively, Trincere does not waiver in her devotion to hard edge, geometric painting. More important, she continually finds ways to both refine and perfect her approach, as well as reinvigorate and challenge her studio practice as seen in the most recent paintings. Hence, the similarity observed between her two bodies of paintings separated by three decades: a cohesive approach, but with elevated enhancements such as dynamic compositions, unique color palettes, and enigmatic surfaces in her newest series.

This pair of simultaneous exhibitions is documented with a digital catalog and essays by Peter Frank, a Los Angeles-based art historian, curator, and critic, and David Eichholtz, based in New York, an art historian, curator, and co-founder of David Richard Gallery. Peter Frank began his career in New York, he knew Li Trincere in the early 1980s and saw most of the earlier paintings in this presentation either in her studio or exhibitions in New York.

Frank had first-hand knowledge of the art scene in East Village and knew most of Trincere’s male contemporaries: Ted Stamm, Olivier Mosset, Alan Uglow, Steven Parrino, Michael Scott, and Mark Dagley to name a few. It is interesting to note that in the early 1980s, Trincere was one of the few women emerging in the arena of hard edge, geometric painting, several of her female colleagues at that time included Joan Waltemath, Suzan Frecon, and Mary Obering.1 Not just the women had a tough go of it, so did the cadre of artists as a whole who chose to pursue not only rigorous geometric abstraction, but maintained their unwavering loyalty to painting as a medium. Trincere and her Neo-Geo colleagues bucked the mainstream of popular art in New York during the 1980s, which included Street and Graffiti Art, Scatter Art, Neo-Expressionism, Pictures Generation Artists, abject art, identity art, and photography.

The Exhibition:
The exhibition of eleven earlier paintings from 1986 – 1990 are all on stretched canvases with shaped perimeters, a cornerstone of Trincere’s studio practice. The exception is Untitled (T22), 1987, measuring 10 x 120 inches and comprised of 2 canvases, each 10 x 60 inches, held together with screws, and a unique composition: dynamic black and white geometric shapes with a central diamond and series of chevron shapes to the left and right. The three paintings measuring 36 x 36 inches and the two large “X” paintings measuring 72 x 72 inches (color palettes of one Black and White and the other Black and Green, both diptychs comprised of a pair of 36 x 36-inch canvases) were presented, along with other paintings not in this presentation, at Galerie Rolfe Ricke in Cologne, Germany in a solo presentation in 1989 and group presentations at the Cologne Art Fair in 1988 and 1990. Trincere continued exhibiting her paintings with Rolfe Ricke well into the 1990s and until he retired. Nearly all the other paintings in this exhibition were presented at the Julian Pretto Gallery in New York. The painting, Untitled (T09) Red/White, 1987, measuring 48 x 48 inches, was also presented in a group presentation at Annina Nosei Gallery, New York. There are also eight hard edge, geometric drawings of Caren D’ache wax crayons on BFK paper, each measuring 22 x 30 inches and created from 1986 to 1991. The imagery on paper mostly corresponds to the paintings in the presentation.

The simultaneous and second exhibition in a separate gallery space (Suite 9E) debuts new paintings from 2022 and recent paintings from 2021, as well as a selection of drawings dating from 2020 to 2022. The interesting and noteworthy aspect of the newer paintings is that they do not have shaped perimeters, they are all a fixed dimension of 54 x 54 inches square, a significant departure for Trincere. Since these two recent series of paintings emerged during the covid pandemic, the prescribed and consistent shape and dimensions almost echoed the confinement the artist experienced during the pandemic. However, the fixed shape and size of each canvas and series was not a limitation for the artist. In fact, the restraints became a source of innovation and experimentation for Trincere. She pushed geometry, figure / ground relationships, compositions, color palettes, value transitions, and surfaces to the limit.2 Oddly, at first glance each painting almost reads like a shaped canvas as the focus is on a mostly, centrally located geometric composition that nearly fills the canvas as it pushes to the edges; feeling torqued and pushed to the square perimeter other angles emerge to break the tension and then, the suggestion perfected with carefully selected palettes and extreme color values providing strong contrasts between figure and ground.

Along with the confinement during covid came introspection and assessing oneself and career. Thus, the new parameters and perimeters of her paintings in 2021 and 2022 were a way for Trincere to hit reset and start with a fresh and “blank” canvas. The new imagery and corresponding titles are bold, full of moxy. Trincere was pulling from two sources for this work. First, the notion of resetting and starting at zero espoused by the Zero Group of Germany. They saw zero as “a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning”. More important, Trincere shared similar aesthetic philosophies with the Zero Group, emphasizing non-objective artwork focused on materials and an end game that was clean, reductive, and for the most part, de-emphasized the artist’s hand.3 The second source came from her own roots, the urban and punk bravado of the Lower East side of New York in the 1980s.4 She lived and her work expressed unapologetically the need to be non-conformist; avoiding trends and anything fashionable or popular, especially in art; and staying true to her guiding principles. Permission was not required, living on the edge was the norm, and attitude was everything—you like it or you don’t.

Trincere’s Paintings:
In an interview in the publication Widewalls, Trincere discussed the influence that Neoplasticism had, along with the structured, reductive, geometric work of Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg on her early paintings—strong vertical and horizontal lines, asymmetry, and reductive palettes all working together to create balanced and harmonic compositions.

While her paintings remain true to those early influences and what she considers to be principles of non-objective painting, her shaped canvases were inspired by several unrelated factors. Formally, the work of Kenneth Noland and Leon Polk Smith from the 1970s influenced her compositions by achieving internal tensions, figure / ground relationships, structure, and determining the right perimeters. Specifically, Trincere noted Leon Polk Smith said: “you can use any two colors, as long as the proportion is right”.5 That statement guided many of her color selections and combining seemingly unrelated hues in non-traditional palettes. The second, and very big influence was the urban environment, living and working on the Lower East Side of New York City. The ever-present architecture, construction of new buildings, signage, and hurried life of the city delivered ready-made geometric shapes for the taking. The origins of the “X” paintings in this exhibition came from the railroad crossing signs where she lived nearby, along with crosses, triangles, hexagons, and other shapes in street signs surrounding her every day in the city.

Surfaces have always been a major focus for Trincere’s paintings. Inspired by her work with Yoshi Higa, a Japanese printmaker, she saw first-hand the dynamic process of loading ink on the surface of the lithography stone with every pore being obliterated when filled with ink and the resulting opaque forms were transferred to the paper.5 She translated that experience to building up the surfaces of her paintings with layer after layer of paint to remove the evidence of the warp and weft of the canvas. Her surfaces became flat and smooth with only variations in hues, the light and any corresponding reflection providing any indication of the surface receding or projecting off the painted surface. Later, she began incorporating metallic flakes and other additives to differentiate surfaces sheen among adjacent colors.

Li Trincere lives and works in New York City. She has exhibited her artworks in the United States and abroad since 1982. Born in Far Rockaway, Queens she moved to Manhattan in the early 1980s, settled in East Village, and was part of that important development of abstract painting in Lower Manhattan. Trincere exhibited along with her colleagues Olivier Mosset and Alan Uglow at the Mission Gallery run by D.D. Chapin in 1984 and 85, then with the influential and important Julian Pretto Gallery. In 1989 and 1990 her work was presented in solo exhibitions at Galerie Rolf Ricke in Kln. More recently, Trincere exhibited at Minus Space in Brooklyn. David Richard Gallery is pleased to represent Li Trincere.

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