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When attitude becomes paintings. LI TRINCERE / The late Cold War works.

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XIBT Magazine

When attitude becomes paintings. LI TRINCERE / The late Cold War works.

By Isaac Aden

It is no secret that frequently artists have been historically underrecognized often due to race or gender. Unfortunately, it remains systemic and prevalent even today with all the demands to greater equity and representation. This is cause for applauding galleries like David Richard Gallery who care committed to presenting historical bodies of works by those who have been overlooked (particularly women and peoples of color) even though their aesthetic contributions to culture are on par or surpass their canonized counterparts. By contrast, an example of an exhibition trying to shed light on an artist ‘s individual achievements, who lacks the critical attention they should be due is, David Richard Gallery’s: Li Trincere, Hard Edge Geometric Paintings 1986 – 1990. It is presented concurrently with a separate exhibition of current hard-edge geometric works from 2021 – 2022, in one of their four Chelsea galleries. Trincere’s shaped canvases are powerful paintings, wrought from formalism and non-objective abstraction. They most frequently employ two colors and held together by the tension between their bold hard-edge shapes. They are deceptively simple and frequently defy conventional categorization. Discovering Trincere’s early works feels like finding a long-lost live Joy Division album in a milk crate. Most likely because, while Trincere was shown in Germany at Rolf Ricke, who introduced and championed of both minimalism and conceptualism in Germany over his extensive career. His roster was a who’s who and included, amongst others: Bruce Nauman, Joe Baer, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Richard Serra and Fred Sandback). In the US Trincere was exhibited with the semial gallerist Julian Pretto who died prematurely of AIDS. Pretto served as the first director of Sperone Westwater, His own gallery had a dynamic and innovative program, Pretto would invite curators such as Rosalind Kraus to organize exhibitions and a young Jeffrey Dietch even curated his first exhibition at Pretto. However, Julian Pretto who died prematurely of AIDS. Unfortunatley, likely due to this Trincere’s paintings were not widely released in the US, and knowledge of them today remains surprisingly rare. This is especially so, considering their quality and t historical position in relationship to the other painters with more mainstream recognition of New York’s East Villages hard edge scene of the late cold war period.

The geology of geometric and non-objective abstraction includes many artists who engage geometry, color theory, and formalism from different approaches, but during the 1980’s it seemed the vast majority of the art world had diverged from concerning themselves with these matters. However, there was a group of artists that emerged in the East Village of New York during the 1980’s who were producing their own unique brand of geometric abstraction. These artists included Olivier Mosset, Steven Parrino, Alan Uglow, Ted Stamm and Li Trincere. Mosset and Parrino have shown at Gagosian, Uglow at Zwirner, and Stamm is represented by Lisson. However, Trincere remains relatively unknown by comparisons to these peers even though the work exerts the same aesthetic achievement.

Olivier Mosset’s works during this period can be seen as still carrying the underlying terms developed with the group of French and Swiss artists he previously belonged to, BMPT. They declared anyone could be an artist and their primary philosophies challenged the conventional hierarchies of the art world, particularly, that of authorship. They were in favor of taking a more conceptual approach, in which the painting and perhaps even the selection of the color would be decided or executed by another. In contrast to Mosset’s monochromes, in Trincere’s work, the presence of the artist hand is unapologetically present. Mosset’s disciple Stephen Parrino was decidedly more punk in his approach to painting, shattering leaning piles of lacquered sheetrock, (metaphorically and physically) wrenching at the fabric of the painting itself. Alan Uglow’s work appears reductive and graphic, at first glance, primarily focusing its concerns on the nuance between perimeters and fields. However, A deeper investigation into the extra-pictorial information of Uglow’s work reveals that his Standard forms were informed by the graphic proportions of sports fields, specifically European football. Ted Stamm was also interested in perimeters and centers. Stamm, like Uglow, was influenced by sports fields and he developed an extensive body of work influenced by the shape of baseball fields. This is the primary distinguishing aspect between Uglow, Stamm and Trincere. Uglow and Stamm’s graphic geometries are rooted in a manner of semiotic transference. Trincere’s work does not intend to conjure a similar semiotic transference, rather they are more sublimated and what George Kubler would describe as Primary Objects, “Prime objects resemble the prime numbers of mathematics… prime numbers likewise resist decomposition in being original entities. Their character as prime is not explained by their antecedents, and their order in history is enigmatic”[1].

Tincere’s work from the mid-eighties to 1990 are distinguished by their use of shaped canvases, hard-edge compositions, and were most frequently realized with the use of two colors. The paintings success is generally held together by the tension between the outer perimeter of the shaped canvas and the internal shape (frequently penetrating beyond the perimeter or clipped by the edge of the canvas, depending on how your position). While many artworks ask you to unpack them or petition for a longer read, Trincere’s works don’t have time for that, their approach is one of immediate impact. Trincere grew up in New York. The pace and attitude of the city can be seen as having a defining influence on the work. Trincere’s work is powerful, direct, and to the point. In the same way that New York’s persisting pace wants to push past tourists, Trincere’s work would run over pedestrian painters.

Trincere’s works are unique in their resistance to classification. They have a decidedly anti or counter stance, perhaps drawing from a postpunk perspective. For example, if viewed online the works look tight, but when seen in person its clear they have a painterly quality. They aren’t slick at all. The work emphasizes the object and has a clear reductive quality, yet the work is not minimalism, it is rooted in the principles of non-objective painting and the hand is clearly present. Albeit the hand doesn’t seem to hold a particular place of significance in the work. Rather the shapes and edges seem to have priority. I would liken the handling of the internal fields of the shapes to the way Brice Marden fervently covered a solid sheet of paper in graphite, or Richard Serra paints his large wall canvases with oil stick. In both examples the evidence of the hand was a biproduct of urgency and the form was vastly more significant. Unlike some other artists who have dedicated their practices to geometric abstraction, Trincere’s work is not reliant on technical execution nor is it reliant on color theory. Trincere cited the influence of Leon Polk-Smith, quoting him by saying, “you can use two colors as long as you use them in the right proportions[2]. And it is by using only two colors, as Polk-Smith suggest, that Trincere’s work stakes its ground.

Visual art has frequently made use of structural lexicons of other disciplines, for example the term postmodern was developed first in the dance world. Sometimes things in art are meant to be more than just what they visually appear to be, as with conceptualism. Sometimes art even appropriates its visual language and content from other aesthetic paradigms such as pop arts appropriation of advertising. I believe that perhaps there are realms of aesthetics and visual language often overlooked in art discourses. I would contend Trincere’s paintings are intuitively operating with the same visual immediacy which is utilized in other non-art forms of visual communication. Consider of the use of two-color high contrast works with an emphasis on shape, in this there can be seen an abstract appropriation of a visual communication methodology not normally part of the discourse of visual art. But rather that of signs, specifically, utilitarian and directional signs, (this is not to be not to be confused with semiotic signs) in which the immediacy and the speed of understanding can be the difference between life and death. What is quite compelling about this is, it is difficult to recall other artists making use of this approach. Most of whom frequently use this methodology, would end up relying on semiotic transfer of symbols to imbue meaning. Rather, similarly to their three-dimensional relatives, primary structures, Trincere’s paintings could be seen as possessing a formal type of primary visual language.

[1] Kubler, George. The Shape of Time, Yale University Press, 1962.pp. 39

[2] Polk-Smith, Leon, Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology Gregory Battcock, ed. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1968

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