Saturday, November 11, 2006

Stephen Giannetti at Heather Marx (SF)

Stephen Giannetti produces a handful of new paintings each year. Using oil paint thinned until it is translucent, he covers a canvas (French polyester) with a tight pattern of small discs painted free-hand. Subsequently he adds another layer of discs and continues the process until there are six layers. Each painting uses a restricted set of colors that are deployed according to a pre-determined schema. On each layer, the pattern of discs is different. This creates overlaps, and because of the translucent paint, the overlaps generate additional colors. The result is a colorfield that appears to hover in space. The optical buzz may bring to mind the Sixties, but these paintings don't have the hard-edged aggression of Op-Art or the disorienting morphs of psychedelia. They are formal but buoyant.

Giannetti has worked most often in a square format, but there are a couple of rectangular pieces in his new show at Heather Marx Gallery. One tall piece looks like a doorway into controlled atomic fission. The photo below gives some idea of the work’s contained energy.

Perhaps my favorite in this show is a smaller work that has the effect of a mirage even though its colors are quite chewy (photo at top, from the gallery website).

It should be noted that photographs don’t capture the optical depth or the precise color effects of these works. They need to be seen in person.

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