Marco Pariani’s abstractions begin with a simplicity of means: several layers of gesso, each sanded down and tinted a distinct color. The differentiation, in which contrasting layers are uncovered through the abraded trail of a finger, allows the artist to generate the visual sparks igniting his imagination through pure tactility. Pariani then augments this instinctive sense of touch with colorfully calligraphic spray-painted lines that dance across the marks made by his fingers and the surface patterns left by the sandpaper.
These steps prepare the way for an intense, performative engagement with the canvas, in which he all but obliterates the initial drawing beneath a flurry of loaded brush strokes in acrylic or oil, spray-painted fields and filigrees, graphic patterning, and bold coloristic contrasts. Pariani executes this final stage in a single, intuitive session that rarely invites revisions. Everything he feels about the image he’s creating is offered up all at once, with nothing held back.
And yet, Pariani’s paintings — for all of their spontaneity, physicality, and emotional release — are nonetheless compactions of the century-long history of abstraction and the cultural immediacy of the current moment. Drawing inspiration from everything from city walls to internet posts, Pariani is an artist uncannily attuned to the mutating demands of his medium.
Marco Pariani was born in Busto Arsizio, Italy, in 1986 and studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan, but he is by temperament, personal choice, and aesthetic instincts a New York artist. Pariani began visiting New York in 2016, and moved to Brooklyn in 2019 to be close to contemporary artists he was looking at, including Katherine Bradford, Katherine Bernhardt, and Chris Martin. The large scale of his paintings — typically more than six feet tall — is the first signal of his affinity with mid-20th-century American abstraction. A close look at the material interactions on his surfaces, however, reveals a tumult of ideas about the power of pure paint, with the emotive gestures of Abstract Expressionism, the lyrical flatness of Color Field Painting, and the raggedy friction of Street Art all vying for primacy.
Dog Kingdom, 2021 carries these painterly arguments into a series of oval swirls that overlap, jam up, and break each other apart. The calligraphic aspect of his practice is especially in evidence, as well as the anything-goes exuberance of graffiti. The variety of marks resonate across decades of American painting, with Willem de Kooning jamming up against Jean-Michel Basquiat. Splats of gold spray paint accent a row of orange swipes, while a cerulean blue line whipsaws above and below airy layers of pigment, and a countervailing black line races around the bottom of the image. Crunchy strokes of brown add weight to the lower left corner, just below a pair of white patches that glow like headlamps.
The painting’s singular, clustered shape — which the artist describes as an “object” — floats in the middle of the canvas surrounded by a significant border buffering it from the four edges of the picture plane. This approach, which Pariani has been following in most of his recent work, plays with the conflation of flatness and solidity that comprises the object. These paintings consciously depart from the “all-over” compositional tenet of earlier abstraction, essentially wrapping the image in quotation marks that acknowledge the artist’s knowing appropriation, deconstruction, and perpetuation of abstraction’s open-ended legacy.