The Farmers - Acrylic on wood panel 30 x60 inches 2014
I finally made my long over due visit to WASS Gallery. What I found was a compound with a two story gallery space and a separate building with their office/storage space. The office space is basically backroom for the gallery. It was populated by your run of the mill domesticated graffiti art and Gen X/Y-Pop. If I had started in the office, I might not have had the power to reach the main gallery. However, WASS Gallery’s solo show of Francesca Bifulco’s paintings captured and repelled me so much that I haven’t stopped thinking about the show for weeks.
I started downstairs viewing Bifulco’s shaped canvas which I now know is her signature mark making of long slashes of paint. To be honest, I couldn’t quite get on board with these works. I thought the works were too simple and almost avant garde decorative. It didn’t really sink in that this was part of an overall style Bifulco was exploring, but this idea became very evident when I went upstairs and saw her more representative pieces. Bifulco was using these slash marks to create images of people and scenes. I had to give the abstract works downstairs a second look and consideration.
Bifulco’s collect of crowds upstairs is incredibly engaging. I found myself smirking at her humorous, yet poignant depiction of people on cell phones in groups. Titles like, The People I May Know and The Farmers illustrate the interactive world we live in across the airways, but not right next to us. Bifulco fences in her subjects in The Farmers like farm animals. I can imagine them playing something like Hay Day. Even digital interactions have a strange disconnect. When a friend was posting an update on social media, I have heard him refer it to “watering the plants.” In other crowds, Bifulco shows how people avoid interact with others through just the act of walking from place to place. Even without cell phones, people find ways to distract themselves from the masses.
Thinking about crowds brings me around to her style of painting. Bifulco has a clear method and style to her work that doesn’t distract from her content, yet isn’t arbitrary either. I see her splashes of paint adding motion and energy to the crowds she depicts, but the style also seems to further emphasise the fact that she is depicting crowds. Her marks blur the figures, while defining them. The color shifts in some of the works also blurred and confused the image, which made me a bit disoriented and disconnected with her subjects. Returning to the abstract works downstairs, I get the feeling that her style loses something without a recognizable subject. Then again, her objective subjects use a multiplicity of lines that make up their composition. Maybe the abstract work just needs more complexity. However, I thinking I might have to go back and see her show again to confirm or reject my first impressions. Luckily I have time, because Francesca Bifulco’s solo exhibition will be up until January 3rd, 2015.
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