Photo Paul D’Agostino
So quiescently perched and visually soothing is the spartan array of works in John Dante Bianchi’s solo exhibition at Signal Gallery, Dislocation Point (through November 3), that its icy placidity and material cruelty attain airs of almost welcoming warmth. White-scale paintings line white walls; rouged-grayish white sculptures poke about all around; the imaginable shadows that the objects in the room might cast seem completely, however circumstantially, dashed out. It is a glacial sphere that somehow, almost despite itself, embraces you.
Of ostensible glaciality, too, are Bianchi’s somewhat indirectly made marks in his suite of paintings backed by birch panels—backed, that is, for the paintings themselves are on, or in, or have taken place upon styrofoam. They are the 2D representatives of his Relief series, and they are at once graceful, gritty and grave. The artist exploits his porous substrate by sketching out compositions in white acrylics—forms now apparently sylvan, now mysteriously figurative, always abundantly and curiously reticular—then subtractively incises the negative spaces by corrosively coating them with white spray paint.
Yet in what amounts to an exact translation of Bianchi’s surname prefaced by a preposition, these paintings are not in white—they are in whites. Airs of polychemical ochres seem nethered in the foam’s grooves and trenches; the whites achieve a nearly earthy range. Only nearly, though, and only sparingly. The rest of the scant chromatic variation results from the textures and shadows of the works’ low relief. The effect is often fossil-like, to be sure, not least due to the implied presences of foliage, bones and trees. All the same, viewers might also liken the crevices, ridges and scrapings that open into the surfaces as topographical aftermaths of glacial retreat.
If so, then Bianchi’s sculptures, also part of his Relief series, might be likened to the glaciers whose migrations tore into those frosted soils. Retroflectively knuckled and buckled, frozen in some sort of self-recoiling, these fiberboard pieces, simple in form yet complex in fold, feature an erosively worn finish of their own. Coated in white, then sanded down to reveal embedded grays, pinks and wooden cores, they are marred, scarred, contused. However violent or ‘relieving’ their retreat, their surfaces are relief-lessly smooth.
John Dante Bianchi doesn’t always work in gradations of white, nor does he always insert subtly forestal elements into his implied imagery. Having done both things for Dislocation Point, however, he seems to have succeeded not only in mounting a strong and coherent exhibition, but also in crafting works that bear curious germaneness to his latter two names. Blanched impressions relieved from the Ninth Circle, in a sense.
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