Last month I saw a show of Alessandro Busci‘s paintings at the Mark Wolfe Contemporary Art. Each of Busci’s paintings featured “train depots, service stations, power plants, and airports”. The enamel palettes used were vivid, usually limited to the brown chemical rainbows over iron panels, thrillingly lurid red paint, near-pure white, and an empty middle gray — now applied thickly, now diluted outward giving the impression of water and light on a runway.
Busci’s paintings speak to the part of industrialization that hard, dehumanizing, and sometimes bloody. In other ways, his paintings act as a paean to the great seductive joys of mass-production. There is a beauty to mass-production — the sense of a sudden rush of material wealth — but also a fear and latent violence, as it always seems in danger of growing into a Goliath, both cruel and easily toppled by its own great girth.
Unfortunately those amazing airport and factory paintings were shown in the wretchedly over-designed Mark Wolfe gallery. The gallery space juxtaposes a slick design aesthetic with raw cement pillars. It’s cold in a way that makes me breathy with claustrophobia. The Mark Wolfe gallery belies Busci’s paintings. While the “raw” space speaks to a similar appreciation of industrial design, the application of that design unwittingly implies a total lack of comprehension of the genealogy of the industrial aesthetic.
For these reasons the entire gallery space put me on edge, which might be considered a feat of architecture and design if the subtext (exotification of raw utilitarian architecture) didn’t distract so much from the artwork displayed.
In that setting Busci’s hauntingly beautiful chemical-and-metal paintings — which, given their color and the spontaneous yet sinuous application of paint seemed an homage to the blunt violence of industry — seem almost like mockeries of themselves. The paintings are inherently effective and powerful; and, unlike the gallery, they are infused with a sense of the history and psychological gravity of utilitarian architecture. However, when juxtaposed with the Mark Wolfe space, the paintings are subsumed and hence trivialized.
Busci’s paintings are wonderful but I would prefer to see them in more fitting space.