Caio Fonseca was born in New York City to a family of artists—his father, the late Uruguayan sculptor and painter Gonzalo Fonseca, kept a stone-working studio, and his mother, Elizabeth, is a painter—and his life was shaped early on by diverse cultural sensibilities. A prodigious musical ear led him to pursue classical composition even before he turned to painting, and the forms and gestures of musical annotation are mapped all over his work.
Fonseca is known primarily for abstract expressionist compositions in which aggregations of vibrantly hued shapes, often resembling treble and bass clefs, mingle and consort while floating in fields of richly worked white. But their clean, simple surface appearances in fact belie their complex procedural underpinnings. Despite seeming to conform to traditional Western relationships of figure and ground, in which the former is built up on top of the latter, Fonseca’s works in fact operate in the opposite way, using white not as negative space but as positive form. His paintings and prints are harmonious visual essays composed, like a musical melody, of distinct layers that open onto and give space to one another—effectively opening windows that tunnel backward in time and thereby tell the story of the composition’s making.
This month, Paulson Bott Press announced the release of two new Fonseca prints, marking the first collaboration between the artist and the famed Bay Area print specialists for 7 years. Ultra-Red and Ultra-Mar (both 2014), which the press will show this week in their booth at Miami Project, demonstrate a new development in the artist’s signature technique. Rather than featuring loosely organized forms set adrift on the canvas, these recent compositions are oriented vertically, arranged along more structured axes that evoke highways, or the conductive pathways of a computer’s circuit board. Although formally abstract, these prints embody the artist’s deep engagement with the physical materiality of his tools—pigment and shape on a two-dimensional surface; painting for painting’s sake.