Art Commentary: Vincent Longo at Eric Firestone Gallery

Vincent Longo’s paintings and prints now at East Hampton’s Eric Firestone Gallery are nothing short of outstanding. If we only appreciate their compositions and colors, our minds are at rest, especially concerning the colors. However, if we read both Longo’s artistic statement and his biography by art critic/historian Michael Brenson, we are confused. At least this art critic is. [expand]

That’s sometimes the problem with art criticism: it leads to too much questioning and analysis. And confusion.

For example, Longo himself writes that his work is “necessarily deliberate; regulated rather than predetermined. Images and ideas are worked out rather than thought out.” We can’t agree even though the last notion suggests that the artist deals in process, which seems absolutely correct. If truth be told, we only see the meticulous structured detail of his extraordinary works. How could this be a matter of improvisation, a term that’s been applied to Longo’s methodology? How could something that appears so formulated be so spontaneous? Then again, it’s possible, but one probably has to be an artist, not a critic, to understand.

We begin to sense that while Longo’s art may be full of contradictions (“agitation and calm,” “impulsiveness and slowness”), most viewers will not experience such methodological contrasts. Why? Because the final product or “end” is what most of us see and feel, not the means. Still, some pieces make us aware of formal contrasts present in his work. Consider the vast minimal space of some canvases versus the limited space of his intricate designs.

The “end” also allows us to perceive Longo’s influences, according to his biographer: Abstract Expressionism, Monet, Jung, Mondrian and jazz. (This critic would add Geometric Abstraction as well.) Inspiration from Mondrian is obvious in Longo’s use of lines, and by extension, his rhythmic movement. Literally. Standing in front of his paintings, we can swear that the backgrounds begin to vibrate and move forward, almost like an optical illusion. Motion also plays a part in Longo’s glorious colors as purples and pinks, for example, blend before our very eyes.

Another kind of blending exists as well. When Longo’s small rectangular configurations are placed on a white wall, negative space turns into positive space. We are pleasantly surprised that the wall has become part of the work itself.

Similar images also mesh, figuratively speaking, a variation appearing in more than one work. Consider the circular shape that recurs in many of Longo’s paintings, often merely suggestive and subtle. Curiously, there are literal mesh-like coverings in Longo’s prints as well: stark, spacious and entrapping all at once. Another covering is the latticework in a print where we can look through a window. Obviously, both meshes and latticework are predicated on the grid, a configuration favored by Longo and executed with outstanding skill.


Vincent Longo’s exhibit will be on view at the Eric Firestone Gallery in East Hampton (4 Newtown Lane ) at least until January 15, call 631-604-2386 for exact dates.

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