Ewa Bathelier and Lorenzo Perrone Consider the Power of Absence in “Into the White”

“The meaning of color has always been very important in life. White represents purity, innocence, and decency. White represents spirituality,” writes Galleria Ca’ d’Oro partner Gloria Porcella in her curatorial statement for the New York exhibition “Into the White: Ewa Bathelier and Lorenzo Perrone.” This color and its resonances guided her choices in pairing Bathelier’s paintings of ballet attire, including white tutus and dresses, with Perrone’s all-white sculptures formed of altered and painted books. Though the artists’ visions are distinct, they both tap into the suggestive power of absence within works that rely as much on what can be seen as what cannot.

A Polish-born, Paris-based costume and set designer, Ewa Bathelier pays homage to the exquisite art of ballet in her large-scale paintings. Conspicuously absent from the light-as-air tutus and dresses in the works are the ballet dancers that would be wearing them. As Porcella describes the costumes, they “appear to be alive and floating in the absence of a body,” at once gossamer and corporeal as they hold the shape of unseen dancers. Composed of vigorous, overlapping brushstrokes and splattered and dripping paint, the dresses are set against subtly textured, monochromatic backgrounds. In Rosa Tutu (2014), a soft pink blush lends a touch of color to the white skirt that appears to break apart and scatter down the face of the canvas in thin rivulets of paint.

Italian contemporary sculptor Lorenzo Perrone spent time studying in New York, a city that continues to inspire his pieces. In 2000, he began working on his ongoing “Libri Bianchi” (“White Books”) series:  old books that he covers in white paint and arranges in a wide variety of forms. According to Porcella, the artist “reads the stories of human lives, and captures them in sculptures comprised of actual books.” These are stories of the expression of creativity through architecture and art making, dreaming and risk-taking, love, contemplation, and loneliness. With their pristine white surfaces, the books are stripped of specifics like titles, cover illustrations, and other visual clutter, just as Bathelier’s dresses are freed of their wearers, such that both become vehicles for contemplation and interpretation.

Karen Kedmey

Into the White: Ewa Bathelier and Lorenzo Perrone” is on view at Galleria Ca’ d’Oro, New York, Mar. 7 – Apr. 2, 2015.

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