Throughout my career, I have sought to fuse the pre-modern with the contemporary, to affirm their common ground without post-modernist irony or condescension. In the late 70s, I aligned numerous vertical columns or “strokes” on a long, three-to-one ratio, horizontal format. I glazed these columns in the manner of 17th century Dutch painting, producing what could be called “Old Master Minimalism.” The mating of 19th century landscape painting with 20th century abstraction characterized my work of the 80s. In 1993 I introduced one point perspective in the context of monochrome painting to reconcile the paradox of Renaissance space with painting that eschewed spatial illusionism altogether.
With the Sforza series, I look to go beyond my previous work in terms of formal complexity, scale, chromatic invention and spatial illusionism. Each work is conceived of a network of asymmetrical apertures that hew to a one point perspective system. The effect is like looking through multiple, open-ended boxes or frames. The linear demarcation of the boxes takes place at the picture plane, i.e., in a single space, whereas the depth of each box varies. This structure sits upon a gradated “ground” plane that can be seen as infinite depth. Hence, the space of the painting exists only as foreground and very deep or infinite background. To conform to the ground, the superstructure is gradated. Moreover, each facet partakes of an imagined light source that further enhances a sense of illusion.
The original inspiration for this work is the Sforza Castle in Milan: architectural imagery as defensive fortifications. This massive fortress, built in the 14th and 15th centuries, serves as a repository for some of the greatest works of Western art, among them Michelangelo’s sublime late sculpture, The Rondanini Pieta. Given the threat to Western civilization by those for whom art is anathema, the conflation of museum with fortress, literally embodied in the Sforza Castle, is disconcertingly timely today.
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email Ross Neher