Caio Fonseca

Article excerpt

Caio Fonseca's semaphoric abstractions, collectively entitled "Tenth Street Paintings," 1992--93, perform a skittering dance across waxy canvas skins, weighing surface against rhythm. As venerable in appearance as works by the masters of European Modernism, they look as if they had been made in the Picabian machine age, rather than produced by an American now in his early thirties. Fonseca possesses an authoritative visual vocabulary of buoyant geometrical forms, but his resolutely formal manipulations keep them tightly reined and break little new pictorial ground. Nonetheless, he constructs harmonic systems that infuse his canvases with an appealing and palpable energy.

For instance, in Tenth Street #6, 1992, an ecru, bucket-seat-shaped form occupies center stage of a Rube Goldberg--like assembly as jerry-built as it is solid. In Tenth Street #2, 1992, a rectangular plank bordered by squiggles and painterly strokes rises from a foreground constructed from various shades of white like a roughly hewn two-by-four nailed to a weathered fence. This form, which recalls African fetishes, reappears in Tenth Street #4, 1992, bearing a high "forehead" and certain facial characteristics that give it the look of a windup toy crying out to a cosmos of green ephemera. Allowing thin, horizontal rivulets of paint to grid his overlaid grounds, the artist regularly makes his canvases resemble aged, paint-chipped floorboards from whose layered depths emerge saw-toothed verticals with their own visual interest. …


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