Critical essays

PRIMA MATERIA di Antonio Corbo   (Solo Exhibition – New York – Manhattan December 14 –  January 3  2019)

di John Austin

Antonio Corbo looks at the world through an array of emotions articulated in a play of light, color and form. His vision realized through enamel on canvas paintings may be described as instrumentalities to expression. These mental states interact and initiate mental dispositions, which the artist materializes in his works. And the constant shifting in the intensities of such dispositions underlies the dramatic tensions in his paintings. Each work, realized with restraint, dignity, and not a small amount of visual poetry can be seen as an exemplification of transformation, psychic or spiritual.

Corbo’s images are created in accordance with his fascinating signature technique in which paint is applied ground to the pictorial surface. The primary drama in this work is in the oscillation between a brightly colored hovering foreground form which serves as the center of the painting and the transparent energy patterns which act as both a “birthing” place and “berthing” area. By this gentle play of words I mean to allude to Corbo’s deft compositional technique of punctuating space with areas, which have a liminal hold on the imagination.

These areas are strongly suggestive because of their ambiguousness: they lock and envelop interior forms while simultaneously acting as a nesting area for those interiorized areas to incubate. Thus the dramatic tension which is sensed in this painting is the analogy which one might make between an internal reference to representation about to emerge, set apart from external circumstances yet somehow bound up and in sharp opposition to its host.

In Corbo’s paintings mental dispositions are not so much placed in opposition to one another but are instead considered as equivalent or simultaneous, even while keeping intact oppositional qualities which serve to heighten the dramatic impulse which courses through each work. Here the mood of the works is that of harmonious unfolding rather than of a jarring coming-into-being.

Prima Materia series shows the artists remarkable ability to move from pure abstraction to representation. The overall feeling tone in this painting is that of solemnity suffused with inner radiance. Primordial worlds of different order, those of the real, the imaginary and the symbolic seem to alternate and shift their positions in order to unveil hidden worlds, which lie the veil of illusion which has been thrust aside.

Antonio Corbo’s invention of forms, textures and colors becomes a pictorial method that is sufficiently expeditious to draw forth ideas from the spectator’s mind while using the power of association. Thus a complex process of interaction between making and matching, suggestion and projection, takes place every time the eye and mind

of the beholder confronts Corbo’s configurations and their titles. These works, in turn, produce ideational schema that triggers the imagination and complex emotional worlds, which compels the mind and infuses the spirit.

John Austin is an art critic and independent curator based in Manhattan

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