Saturday, September 8, 2007

Joseph Marioni: The Painter

Those of you who know me, know that my favorite living artist is Joseph Marioni. I find his paintings to be the most compelling and downright gorgeous paintings being made today...well...except mine of course, but I'm kind of biased on that one.

I wanted to take some time to write a bit about Joe and himself that many people don't get to know. The guy who stares down a camera like he wants to break the lens with the power of his stare, but with the heart of an incredible generous and loving person, and downright one of the smartest people I have had the privilege to know.

I have many stories about Joe and the ways he is. But frankly I don't want to spoil them by telling everyone who reads this about them. He is always telling me about his new shows and the wonderful new paintings he is creating. I always want to be able to travel with him to these shows and hear him speak about painting and his art. But alas I'm not wealthy enough to be able to do that. So I have to rely on his letting me know how things went

I wanted to let all my friends know about this great man, so I have decided to share his work with you here. There is included a really great review by his good friend and great writer Michael Fried, which was written about his 2006 show at Peter Blum Gallery in Chelsea NYC.

Enjoy. Perhaps soon I'll be able to personally see more of his work, which I will be sure to share with everyone here.

Thanks for reading. Jeffrey

Joseph Marioni

By Michael Fried

At Peter Blum's new gallery in Chelsea, Joseph Marioni recently showed six paintings made earlier this year in his newly renovated studio, a former meeting hall in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. This studio has, for the first time, given Marioni the space to take his art up to what may well prove to be its maximum size —and the results are dramatic. The artist paints on stretched canvases hanging on a wall, using a long-handled roller. There is a limit to his (two-handed) reach with such an implement, and in several of the paintings on view here, that limit seems to have been attained.

What is immediately striking, at first almost jolting, about the new work is that with two exceptions —a smaller, exquisite white painting on the street wall and a gorgeous "black" picture, lush as a poppy, in the back room — it departs from the delicately layered and amazing sensuous coloristic and factorial register of his most characteristic pictures of the previous ten or more years. Not that multiple layers of transparent and translucent acrylic are not everywhere in evidence; but the overall effect of the layering, at the new scale, is less overtly sensuous than it is revealing of the internal structure, or rather the constructedness, of the individual paintings. So, for example, in a magnificent large dark canvas (gray-blue over orange over white over ocher) just slightly more vertical than square, jagged, flame like internal figuration unexpectedly recalls the forms in certain of Morris Louis's dark veils, though with an altogether more material resonance. (Even more veil-like in its figuration and proportions is an incandescent green canvas that strikes a coloristic note unlike anything in Marioni's work to date.) Moreover, the picture's sheer size (eleven by ten feet), in combination with the perceptual difficulty posed by its extreme darkness, has the effect of calling into question the apparent shamelessness one associated with Marioni's previous work, only to arrive at a different sort of pictorial integration that stands at the very limit of viable relations of internal scale.
In two other paintings , both horizontal rectangles, the image-gestalt changes, with the layers of paint (after the first violet one, itself modified by a final all-embracing layer of transparent green) dramatically drawing in from the sides of the canvas to force the issue of a Newman-like confrontation with the viewer. In these paintings also, the central downward-flowing "sheets" of paint —milky green in one, milky blue in the other —reveal just a hint of upper-right to lower-left bias that I see as expressing the artist's right-handedness, more broadly his embodiedness, as he wielded his long-handled roller, to transport waves of liquid pigment to the canvas and to influence the pigments in subtle ways so as to produce the final results. All the canvases are unframed, as their heroic physicality requires them to be.
These are by no means comfortable paintings, but they express in every square inch of their redoubtable surfaces a pictorial; conviction that has all but vanished from the contemporary scene. Put differently, they are truly challenging works, and the challenge they extend is not just to their viewers but also to their creator: to withstand their impact, to learn to move freely around them, to explore their implications for his paintings to come.


  1. thank you for this. Joe Marioni was unspeakably generous with me thirty something years ago when I was a college student painter/art history studier. He taught me about paint as paint, about his own work, about seeing, about being. In a really lovely direct way. Never making it about him, or his work so much as about seeing and learning.

    It's lovely to find this.
    thank you

  2. Very cool. Thanks Janet. Gonna set your blog to those I follow. Hope you are continuing your development and learning of painting and color.

    I really need to change out that first picture of this post, as it is no longer with us. ;-)

    Just to let ya know if you don't already. Joe is having a major retrospective at the Phillips Collection in DC in 2011.

  3. Been up most of the night researching and writing notes to myself on the significance of Stella and Poons. Came by your excellent blog and found Joseph Marioni! Just wanted to thank you for introducing me to his work! It somehow escaped me. It's just my taste, this sort of minimalist/abstraction hybrid I associate so much with Stella and Poons, if that's not a contradiction in terms. It's not to me - his work is remarkable.

    Manuel Branco

  4. Thanks Manuel.

    If you are in need of any of Joe's writings. I can help you out by putting some PDF's on here to read and learn from.

    Keep in touch, and have a wonderful week.
    Cheers, Jeffrey


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Columbus, Ohio, United States