FRANCO COLALILLO at Xpace (303 Augusta) to Jan 16. email@example.com. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
As a rule, designers gravitate to things in pristine condition, eschewing the rusty and rotten.
Franco Colalillo spent the past few years designing for architecture firms in Asia among the region's mix of old structures and new skyscrapers, and found himself engrossed by the constant state of urban decay. While the theme is common, the imagery and texture in Colalillo's paintings have an immediately striking overall effect.
Amidst the burgeoning concrete structures of Shanghai and Hong Kong, among other cities, Colalillo singles out and photographs metallic towers of all kinds, from cellphone antennae to pile drivers. But when the finished work comes together as a large painting, the focus becomes the rich texture of the negative space around these structures.
Initially, he puts his photographs themselves through a process of decay, reducing them to high-contrast photocopies that he then cuts up and rearranges. That image is then blown up and pasted onto a large wooden board over which he outlines the shape of the structure on black acrylic.
It quickly loses its primacy, however, as he covers the negative space around the structure in thick white layers of gesso and plaster. In many of the paintings these areas receive a deep mahogany wood stain that adds an antique feel, but a few have been left black and white for a more dramatic effect.
The chunky plaster and gesso seem to be eating away at the black shapes of the metal bars. The intricacy of these blobs works best when Colalillo adds delicate shading to the cylindrical and spherical objects in the structure in works such as Stack or Hitachi Pan. But in other works, like Cell Tower, it's the relatively simple shapes that make the paintings.