Beers welcomes Tony Romano to London for his first UK solo exhibition, entitled Night Thoughts. Here, the young Canadian artist has created a body of work that includes his recognisable wood-and-steel sculptures, alongside hand-printed and hand-tinted photographs as well as a small series of drawings.
Growing up in a family of woodworkers, Romano's primarily sculpturally-based practice comes intuitively. His work exhibits remarkable confidence: a perspective that is both whimsical and brutish, allowing the physical properties of his raw materials (so often wood and steel) to announce themselves distinct from this almost austere presentation, into something much greater than the sum of their parts. It is in Romano's handling of such unadorned media that the works find their beauty, and there is a fantastical, folkloric quality to the work as well, some naive ingenuity in which the artist releases these dramatic forms from such raw material. There is a Romantic notion that the Classic sculptor does not actually 'create' his sculpture, but merely 'releases' it from within his resolute block of marble. With Romano, we see an almost gestural silhouette. His forms are akin to that of a skilled draftsman drawing squiggles or silly doodles within a sketchbook; here, Romano brings these sketches to vivid life in three dimensions, but always with a sense of play and irony.
In fact, there seems something almost tragicomic about the works in Night Thoughts, a title almost reminiscent of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream, where Romano creates a theatre of absurd maquettes, wherein we, as visitors, agree to engage with the abstract and the fantastical elements playfully housed around us. A surrealist stage comprised of artificial and architectural objects.
To compliment the sculptures, Romano presents Ruins, a small suite of hand-printed and hand-tinted photographs that suggest the imaginary state between creation and decay, a sort of ‘architectural magic hour’ if you will, between manmade construction and destruction. This venture into the more sociopolitical aspect of his practice: as a filmmaker as well, Romano is concerned with ideas inherent to early photographic techniques and the Romanticism surrounding ruins of past civilizations, as well as their eventual geographical decay. Romano presents these as though in a temporal vacuum: that is to say there is an ambiguous measurement and presence (or absence?) of time. For Romano, this is a causal notion: "when a building is constructed," he states, "there are moments when one can see into its skeleton... a structure and the fantasy of its ruins are revealed." This begins concepts of the uncanny, how spaces are at once familiar and unfamiliar, and we can place our imagination upon it. As a viewer, we see these visual cues throughout Romano's practice: a slightly comic nod to the figure; a bowl of fruit that suggests the absurdity of certain domestic spaces; a hanging door-chime like sculpture that asks us to take a second look. Night Thoughts is a bit like a play, in which we - aware of its artifice - still partake in the fantastical revelations disclosed along the way.
TONY ROMANO (b. 1978, Toronto, Canada) obtained a BFA from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. Romano has shown his work extensively internationally including exhibitions in Canada, Austria and Sweden. Recent solo shows include The Last Act, Articule, Montreal, Onward Future, Oakville Galleries, and Notary Moon, MacLaren Art Gallery, Barrie as well as group shows such as The Way I Are, Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto; You Don’t Really Care for Music, Do You?, Red Bull Projects, Toronto; Everything will be OK, No. 9 Projects, Toronto; and Air Conditioned Jungle, Diaz Contemporary, Toronto.
Drawing on a range of sources from philosophy to linguistics to pop culture, Tony Romano’s work experiments with codes as living cultural forms. The artist’s sculptural pieces are playful renditions of Modernist sculpture, borrowing from the archetypal silhouettes of reclining nudes, but quite reflexively playing upon the minimalist, and austere tendencies with a contemporary, sly sensibility. Working within a family tradition of carpentry and iron work Romano uses these sculptures to explore the vernacular of his everyday materials and to examine the disparate worlds of daily working class labour with the more rarified world of the high art object. Combining references to history, as well as pop-culture and Romano’s own tendency for shape, color, use of material, and narrative, the works seem timeless, yet engaging and experimental.