Through August 14th, 2010.
Charest-Weinberg Gallery is currently presenting Within an Arrows Range, an exhibition of new paintings by Pedro Barbeito. This will be the artist’s first solo show at the gallery following a successful two-person outing last year.
Pedro Barbeito came to prominence in the late 90s as the leader of a group of abstract painters challenging Modernism’s prevailing notion of terminal flatness through architectonic strategies of superimposition, lamination and tiling. For this new generation of painters, Modernism’s insistence on simplified order through a program of ever-increasing regimentation, measurement and precision in the hopes of revealing a sense of naked spiritual purity shorn of any “messy” figurative signifiers, had seemed to run its course. Much like a precarious, teetering Jenga toy, whose last geometric block has just been removed, abstract painting before the ubiquity of digital imaging technologies seemed about to collapse under the weight of its own empty, Greenbergian rhetoric.
While today it seems as if every aspiring painter has at some point dabbled with Photoshop, satellite image-grabs, and 3D modeling programs (as well as the attendant editing programs used to tweak and manipulate them), it bears mentioning that a mere fifteen years ago, the notion of an abstract painting as an archive or repository of built-up, sedimentary layers was practically heretical. Had this been Salem circa the early 19th Century, Barbeito would certainly have been the first apostate to be burned at the stake.
In hindsight, we now see that even his first conscious stabs at “exploding” the Modernist grid and gathering the resulting “shrapnel,” so to speak, were pioneering efforts to level the playing field between the assumed artificiality of the digital archive and the equally stereotypical presumption of the artist’s subconscious imaginary as the sole locus of authentic creativity.
But as Barbeito’s original generation has become fully historicized and the battle lines are drawn between a growing techno-aided Baroque on one hand, and the deep subjective interiority of a new generation of quasi-naïve, deskilled Abstract-Expressionists on the other, Barbeito himself has been actively dissolving these same boundaries between the figural and the abstract, the vaguely humanoid and the resolutely gestural on his own terms. Such divisions, he would argue, are handed down after the fact anyway by critics and cultural theorists alike, who are eager to demystify or perhaps hasten the obsolescence of what in the end cannot be demystified – that is to say, the artist’s own recombinant, ever-organic, insistently morphing attempts at creating a deeply personal, wholly unique visual language.
Pedro Barbeito is a graduate of the Yale School of Art. Born in La Coruna, Spain in 1969, he now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. His work has been exhibited internationally and resides in collections all over the world.
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