Art About Nothing. In his witty mixed media paintings, the artist uses the tools of the painter's craft, such as stretcher bars, brushes, and hardware, as well as found objects almost anything except paint on canvas. With these materials, the artist tweaks the viewer's expectations about the nature of painting, while putting the conceptual pretensions of contemporary art to the test.
Art About Nothing
626 Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of paintings and sculpture by New York artist Robert Cenedella. Showing for the first time in California, the artist is best known for his satirical works dealing with issues ranging from politics and sex, to the Stock Exchange and the World Trade Center, to the Art World itself. The artist will exhibit work from his provocative new series, ART about NOTHING. In his witty mixed media paintings, Cenedella uses the tools of the painter's craft, such as stretcher bars, brushes, and hardware, as well as found objects Â almost anything except paint on canvas. With these materials, the artist tweaks the viewerÂ¹s expectations about the nature of painting, while putting the conceptual pretensions of contemporary art to the test.
The exhibition will have approximately twenty-five paintings and several sculptures from the ART about NOTHING series, with an x-ray look at a painting's skeleton Â both its physical support and the unspoken conventions behind the art. The viewer literally sees paintings stripped bare to reveal both nothingness and the love of art itself, expressed through formal invention, unexpected combinations, and the continual conversation between artist and object. Rather than a dry polemic, this work is at once playful and poetic, and infused with Cenedella's unique pop sensibility. The artist's use of clamps, chains, and turnbuckles speaks directly of the labor and tension that often are disguised in a completed work of art. CenedellaÂ¹s ART about NOTHING celebrates the endless joys and struggles of making something out of nothing.
The exhibition also includes ten works from his recent series, The Easel Painting Revival, which alludes to the parade of styles in art over the past fifty years. William Zimmer, contributing critic to The New York Times, writes, "This contentious atmosphere around abstract expressionism and its aftermath, fueled by true believers and detractors, is the subject of Robert Cenedella's new and subtly dramatic installation." On display, as well, will be a small selection of oil paintings from the 1980s and 1990s, featuring Cenedella's long interest in satirical comment upon societyÂ¹s foibles. The artist's colorful and detailed canvases have skewered American culture's materialism, racism, and militarism, along with its love of sports, spectacle, and excess.
In 2003, Cenedella was honored by the first survey of political art presented at The Nation in New York. Victor Navasky, the magazineÂ¹s editor, remarked, "If Cenedella were merely a satirist with a palette, it would be easy to locate him as the most recent in a long line of protest artists and simply proceed that he is giving protest art a good name. In many ways, Cenedella chooses to play the role of Court Jester, but since he does so with such astonishing color and form and since his wit is strangely passionate, he complicates not only our ability to classify his work, but to think about art itself."
In ART about NOTHING, Cenedella pursues a path he has followed for over forty years, creating a series of "contra mundem" gestures undertaken in the spirit of activist conceptual art. In 1965, as a young artist, Cenedella issued the Yes Art manifesto, a satirical commentary on Pop Art. In the mid-1980s, the painter became embroiled in controversy when a large painting of Santa Claus being crucified was censored from an exhibition. (This painting will be shown in the current exhibition.) In 1994, in a project termed "conceptual art" by art dealer Leo Castelli, Cenedella sold stocks in an individual painting, 2001 - A Stock Odyssey, conceived of as a large, single junk bond. Cenedella's career has been punctuated by conceptual projects that comment on the art world and the world art lives in.
Robert Cenedella's work is in many private and corporate collections, and has been featured in three Absolut Vodka ads. On March 11, 2004, Cenedella unveiled "The Easel Painting Revival" at Le Cirque 2000. In this world famous New York restaurant is also permanently installed his painting, Le Cirque: The First Generation, a panoramic group portrait of more than one hundred famous patrons, including Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Bill Cosby, Tony Randall, Cy Coleman, and Barbara Walters, enjoying a repast at the original Le Cirque restaurant in the Mayfair Hotel. This spring, Robert Cenedella had a solo exhibition at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, and lecture: "WHAT isn't ART." He has also shown his work at the Galerie Am Scheunenviertel in Berlin, Germany, at Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, and at The Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.
Cenedella received his education at the High School of Music and Art in New York, and The Art Students League of New York, where he studied under the late German satirical painter George Grosz in the late fifties. In 1988, he inherited the George Grosz chair at the Art Students League, where he has since taught life drawing and painting.
Cenedella's art and life are the subject of a forthcoming book, The American Artist as Satirist, by M. Kay Flavell and documentary film, The Disclaimer, directed by Gary Halvorson, who has directed televison episodes of Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Joey, as well as Metropolitan Opera productions broadcast for PBS. Robert Cenedella lives and works in New York.
626A South Spring Street, Downtown Los Angeles, CA 90014