Davide Balliano’s New Paintings Build From Uncertainty To Precision

Perhaps best known for his wood, metal, and glass sculptures, the Italian, New York-based artist Davide Balliano has explored a variety of media in his studio and performance work—so it’s fitting that his latest show, now on view at London’s Timothy Taylor Gallery investigates methods of artmaking. 

  • Installation view courtesy of Timothy Taylor Gallery.

For his new two-dimensional works, Balliano paints on gessoed boards with lacquer and plaster to create stark black-and-white compositions. While the geometric abstractions he employs are exacting, the many marks and activities leading up to the finished work remain visible. His works are both painterly and hard-edged meditations on line, form, and color. He continues a tradition of reductivist painting, including new innovations that creatively break with the conventions of 20th-century abstraction. Balliano also makes sculptures and collages. “[Combining] different mediums and the dialogue that they have with each other ... is very important for me,”says Balliano. “I never make a show that deals with only one medium because it feels like a small part of what I do.”

Some of the elements in Balliano’s work are very familiar; works such as Untitled (2014) resemble early paintings by Frank Stella or Sean Scully’s grayscale stripe paintings. Here, Balliano uses one of his recurring tactics of drafting a composition over four panels, then assembling the pieces to form one image—in this case, a symmetrical composition with vertical stripes curving into concentric arcs at the center. Other works in the show similarly employ arcs and parallel lines. The “U” shape, a recurring motif in both the artist’s two- and three-dimensional work, is evident in many of the works, and echoed in the sculptures placed throughout the exhibition space, vessel forms that have been sliced in half.

In two untitled works from 2015, Balliano plays with the form of a U-shaped curve. In the first, Balliano has again constructed a surface by conjoining four separate panels, painted black and covered in a painterly white color field. Black arcs repeat over the surface of three of the panels, creating complex scale relationships evocative of the style of Robert Mangold. In the second, the shape appears almost as if it were branded into the surface. Seemingly simple forms like this one can read very differently given the context, and the textured surface hints at the care and attention given to creating a spare image.

In another untitled work from 2015, Balliano joins two U-curves that don’t quite intersect, and connects them at the center with a thin vertical line. They’re drawn hesitantly, built up with black-and-white pigments, and seem as though they’re knitted-together, reminiscent of Wade Guyton’s manipulated inkjet ‘X’s’. In all of his work, Balliano wrestles with the complexities of production, how to refine the handmade, craft, and the elegant unexpectedness of unusual materials.

Stephen Dillon

Project Room: Davide Balliano” is on view at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London, Mar. 7 – Apr. 2, 2015.

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Installation view courtesy of Timothy Taylor Gallery.

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