Frank Zadlo Reinvigorates Landscape Painting at Victori+Mo Contemporary

One of the most classical artistic genres—landscape painting—isn’t often seen on the contemporary art circuit. In his new show at Victori+Mo Contemporary, Frank Zadlo revisits the genre to explore the ways in which contemporary culture is changing our understanding of landscape. The expressive, swirling works hung around the space (rendered in gouache, video, and even cement) underscore the ephemerality of the natural world. 

The focal point of the show is Zadlo’s series of large, cement wall works. Titled “A Ghosting,” they refer to “ghosting,” a term used in construction to describe unwanted marks, caused by the inner framework of buildings, that sometimes appear on their concrete surfaces. Zadlo embraces these “errors,” using them as chance compositional elements. Appropriate to their titles, the heavy panels in fact have an ethereal quality, as if viewing a mountain range through a dense fog. They resemble J.M.W. Turner paintings that have magically fused with the walls of industrial warehouses.   

While Zadlo’s “A Ghosting” series makes use of industrial materials, the lone video work on view creates an unconventional landscape out of digital media. Titled This on This (Landscapes) (2015), the video juxtaposes close-up images shot with a cellphone camera with sweeping views of outer space that have been borrowed from NASA. As the video alternates between land a space, or the micro and the macro, it becomes difficult to tell which footage came from which source. Zadlo seems to suggest that the complex beauty of the cosmos can be found in our own planet’s most mundane details. 

Rounding out the show are a group of studies for Zadlo’s “A Ghosting” series, delicately painted in gouache on paper. In spite of their small size (and status as “studies”), these paintings hold their own against the larger, concrete works due to their elegant beauty. While the other works on view create landscapes from unlikely industrial and technological sources, these gouache studies assert that even the most simple and direct forms of landscape painting still have a place in today’s art world.

—Andrew Wagner

All The Walls” is on view at Victori+Mo Contemporary, New York, Jan. 8–Feb. 14, 2016.

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