Carmon Colangelo condenses, overlaps, and de-composes versions of painting and printmaking’s abstract plotlines, ones evocative of natural and artificial environments. He randomizes graphic sequences inherent to each medium and uses a kind of graphic subterfuge to displace classic recursive images. Compositions in either medium interlace digital and analog roots to observe the play between radical geometry and organic form. Diagrammatic details are swallowed in atmospheric depths while others emerge on breakneck channels of pigment. Unwound abstraction, skewed geometries, diaristic ephemera, prowling afterimages, and constructivist montage inform his practice of constructing images as he conceals and then exposes intervals of fabrication. Colangelo fills pictures with improvised temporal, as well as spatial, ruptures in drawing, collage, painting, and digital media that reveal examples of ‘capture,’ and ‘accretion.’ He intends a picture as both an apprehension and turbulent modification of the real.

His paintings begin with an accumulation of analog drawings and itinerant digital images that respond to the positive or negative charge of those in their vicinity. These are printed on canvas, then applied over another more traditional substrate of gestural acrylic compositions. The top layers have numbers of cut spaces that enhance the composition and reveal forms, occasionally in contradiction, to the dominant image. The pictures are extruded assemblages that parody the flow of paint and trajectories of brushwork. They’ve become more graphic, metallic, and skin-like over the last few years, occasionally feeling like details of exotic tattoos, classic sports car decals or 60’s gothic type design, illusions enabled by the artist’s tendency to invert and dislocate symbolic images.

Chit-Chat, Acrylic and digital printing on canvas, w/cuts and collage elements, 48” x 36” 2023

Brushmarks, incisions, collage, and digital displacements are his grammar. They’re not however, just language derived from familiar stylisms, but artist’s graphic lingua franca. The gist is the collective perpetuation of abstract painting but is as subjective and experiential as you can imagine a studio practice or shop routine. His storms of thawing paint sanction an inherent love of objects and disclose the work as a sustained obligation of task-mastering and improvisation.

In “Chit-Chat,” a painting and digital print on canvas, he employs surface cuts and collage similar to his churning compositions of the past few years. It maintains much of the polished, yet vertiginous, features of his autographic debate with technology. Embedding nature within deprogrammed matrices is no stranger to contemporary art and it’s especially germane to the evolution of printmaking. Colangelo juggles media traditions in an igneous space that merges pearlescence with true grit.

Idea of the North and Heatwaves in a Swamp, Lithograph, 30?x22?, 2023 (Marais Press)

The artist produced one of his most furious prints during a recent visiting artists stint at Marais Press at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. A large multi-pigmented lithograph, titled “Idea of the North and Heatwaves in a Swamp” cultivates mapping conventions in much 2D abstraction. “Swamp” contains hyper-chaotic deposits of mark-making and drawing and provides an ensemble of techniques and habits of hard-nose abstractionists. Both architectonic and expressionist, the paper is charged with shredded background color, then torched with angularity and globular voids that float from recessive to encroaching space. Tucked in the left center he drops a network of improvisational scribbles that spiral into a darkened chasm. To the right a heat map inset of the lower 48 references the neighboring Cajun bayou plunked by gelatinous moisture from Colangelo’s Ontario birthplace.

At least I think that’s what happening. Generally, I pay little attention to titles of abstract pictures, but I couldn’t resist this one. The cultural corridor between the Gulf and the Great Lakes is underrepresented in all mediums, so it’s impressive to see it illuminated in a chaotic weather event.

Colangelo situates neglected exercises of late modern abstraction in imaginary time zones that are defined by plenty of philosophical antagonisms. One is pursuant to traditional avant-gardism and the other is art’s current question mark of spectacles. Each voices the idea of a nonlinear narrative as a pivot point with multi-directional perspectives. By rebooting apparatuses of style and technology he invents conceptually gray histories at variance with nature and cultural memory, but it’s fiction constructed with some exactitude.

Much digital art chokes on extravagance. Colangelo represents a noteworthy tendency by a few artists that till a digital garden, neither feigning research, or embellishing mechanisms. Instead, he foregrounds disturbed soil as it brings art and technology back down to earth.

Paul Krainak
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