Marco Neri: Lucas Schoormans Gallery
Frankel, David, Artforum International
Marco Neri's cityscapes and architectures are simultaneously spare and lush. Rendered in tempera, the pictures' matte black surfaces look plain but act rich--the paint is thin and flat but profoundly light-absorbent, dark with an unshowy completeness that makes the pate of oil seem grandiose by comparison. Arranged in largely rectilinear systems across these opaque expanses are white markings geometric enough to remain bars and rectangles, stripes and circles, even while they coalesce into nighttime views of the modern city. For the most part regular, hard-edged, and dense, these whites can also melt into washy, patchy areas and thinly painted stretches where their outlines soften and waver, and the black beneath them shows through to make them gray. This particular group is dominated by black and white, yet their simple but careful variations produce intricate sensations of visual depth.
In Mars Black (all works 2005), the most tenebrous of all these pictures and named for the black pigment Neri uses, the neat circles scattered in other works become a grid of small, uneven dots that together evoke an apartment or office building at night. A single, more widely spaced row of dots at the bottom of the grid seems to set the building on a street with a row of streetlamps, introducing a sense of both place and distance through the simplest of means. In another context--a show of strict geometric abstraction, say--this reading might come more slowly; Mars Black is a kind of pun: an illusion, an abstraction, and material paint on canvas all at the same time. In this it plays a game that goes back to the beginnings of modernist painting, in fact a game intrinsic to painting as an art. …