Note: This week, I’m thrilled to share some new work by Kurt Piazza, my co-curator here at Lonely Ocean. Aside from writing about art and organizing art shows in the Tampa Bay area, Piazza is also an artist himself! His current work will be part of “Don’t Ask. Do Tell” an LGBTQI+ Pride month exhibit he helped to curate at the Chad Mize Gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida opening on June 19.
My recent paintings reference architectural systems and spatiality, the seen and the unseen, and the covering up and revealing of shapes and forms.Kurt Piazza
Kurt Piazza has long been interested in exploring what is seen and not seen within the context of the built landscape, a theme he has approached through a variety of media. The Suburbs Series, is at once a continuation, departure, and a return to fundamentals for Piazza.
For Piazza, the emotional impact of the built environment is a frequent preoccupation. In the black and white photos above, Piazza captures patterns and uses contrast to emphasize organic shapes in Parisian architecture. The emotional impact is an eerie sense of times long since passed, but that linger on in abandoned and quietly decaying structures.
This romantic, somewhat haunted sensibility is something Piazza has explored in both his video and installation work, as well as in his two solo exhibitions aptly named The Future Belongs to Ghosts and Towards the Edge of the Visible.
In the Suburbia Series, the only reference to the built landscape is the title itself, and the images are minimalist, flat, and organic shapes rendered with layers of acrylic paint on paper. This is quite a departure from Piazza’s recent large-scale paintings, which feature high contrast patterns and loose, gestural mark-making with layers of oil paint on canvas.
Piazza explained how his recent experience of self-isolating during quarantine prompted the new direction, “Testing new things, relearning the fundamentals, working on a smaller scale, all of these things seemed to be a metaphor with what was happening with the limited mobility, isolating in one space, and generally feeling restricted.” He described how he was careful to separate the shapes, moving from a freer process to one that was more careful, refined, and deliberate.
In the Suburbs Series, Piazza creates organic shapes in pink, orange and brown hues. While the approach takes a cue from minimalism, the palette and layering of colors is highly expressive, and brings to mind some of the work of Philip Guston. Overall, I find the emotional effect of this juxtaposition to be a sense of an awkward, tentative but very human connection.
Piazza noted in the interview that his return to painting brought him back full circle after forays into creative endeavors as varied as the culinary arts, video, installation, photography, curation, and then again to painting. Maybe the days of quarantine have brought back a slower, more relaxed pace that has let us recalibrate a bit and made us all a little more aware of the simple things, a bit more deliberate, and a tad more cognizant of how we interact with each other.