Gianna Commito, Nina Rizzo, and Stephanie McMahon
Gestures, or actions of the body (most notably the hands and arms), that are used to communicate ideas and intentions have their source in the physical presence and movement of the communicator. They can be slow or quick, and necessarily have a relationship with time as part of the perceived meaning. A gestural mark can be a very immediate way to respond to a source or a surface. A gesture can also be extensive, and even repeated to determine an entire composition. An accumulation of different gestures, too, can bring ideas into physical presence.
Often, in painting, the word gesture conjures up thoughts of the grand or heroic. It is associated with action painting, done on a large scale. Small gestures, too, have an important role to play in painting. Alone, small gestures can sneak in, surprise, jump quickly, organize and punctuate. In numbers, they prove mighty as they slow down transitions, become forms and atmosphere, establish pattern and rhythm, and create a language of movements from which one can glean the intention and physical record of the artist.
The artists in this exhibition challenge our conceptual, material and bodily relationship to gesture. In some paintings, small, quick gestures feel monumental, concise and still when scale and physicality are reexamined. In others, the gesture is set within or pushed up against geometric structures that appear to abruptly halt a movement or create friction to slow it down. Large gestures are condensed and small gestures are expanded or depicted larger as these artists question how the gesture is perceived in painting.
Gianna Commito’s gestures are small favors, winks and nods toward her process and the history of abstraction. Her paintings, at first glance, work hard to deny any evidence that the artist’s hand was ever in play. Striped planes are delineated by taped edges, cutting off and covering up the information underneath and around unyielding geometric forms. A closer look reveals quite a different process, one in which many small gestures, both real and suggested, add up to create these fractured surfaces. Often starting with drips, pours, or spills, the first layer of information in Commito’s work is closely aligned with action painting or the chance-derived techniques of the Surrealists. From this quiet chaos she wrestles the suggestion of order. Gestural marks reappear at later stages in the process in more codified practices: discreet shapes and forms that suggest a controlled flick of the wrist. These present as polite splatters, tiny feathered swoops, or the excavation of layers from tape being gently pulled away. The scale of Commito’s work ensures that no gesture swells beyond a subtle signal or shrug. Once noticed, though, they provide a counterpoint to the work’s louder and more obvious formal tendencies.
Gianna Commito (b. 1976, Sea Level, NC) earned a BFA from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Alfred, NY and an MFA from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA. The artist has been included in exhibitions at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; The Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH; Lehman College Art Department, New York, NY; Webster State University, Ogden, UT; MOCA Cleveland, Cleveland, OH; National Academy, New York, NY; and the Drawing Center, New York, NY; among others. Commito is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Ohio Arts Council Award; the Cleveland Art Prize; Artist in Residence at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art; and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. In 2018, her work was featured in the inaugural edition of the FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art in Cleveland, OH. Commito lives and works in Kent, OH and is represented by Rachel Uffner Gallery in New York City.