Minimalism – Niele Toroni

An exhibition of first wave minimalist Niele Toroni’s work curated by Marian Goodman Projects

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Nov 12 - Jan 11

Marian Goodman Projects

Anti-human? Anti-Ego? Each painting a unique artifact within a lineage of something that appears visually the same. A repetition of the essence of an idea, recontextualised each time, and each time intellectual and cool but emotionally burning. As much as some might scoff at Toroni’s work, after all, he has the sort of anti-realist, anti-figuralist aesthetic that sits at the heart of a bourgeois academic exclusionary appreciation of art, it’s not clear he shares this view.

Does he ‘provide a constant against which endless variables – physical, conceptual, political, or personal – inspire new and transient interpretations’ (Mara Oberman, Artforum, 2020)? or are the universalities of his imprint the aloofness of an artist/viewer alienated and impotent in the face of social change?

The years behind the brush point to dedication to an idea that defies simple explanation. Could someone be that wedded to a single execution? The encompassing repetition could be an analogy of biological evolutionary processes, little changing year on year, but after aeons would anyone recognise their forebear? Familiar traces made strange, new features weird to our eyes, and old perennial cliches existing against and through inescapable universal pressures. At this point can we deny the existence of ‘God’ at least as a construct, at most as an invisible hand, painting, again and again, the same thing, without mercy or jubilee? The last twist is that we appear bigger against the work when so much other work that encounters the spiritual makes us feel small. We can contain the scale of his paintings within what we see, but the scope expands even our deepest patience.

Niele Toroni, Empreintes de pinceau N°50 à intervalles réguliers de 30 cm, June 2019. Photo: Rebecca Fanuele

Press info
Marian Goodman Projects is pleased to present an exhibition of recent and historic works by Niele Toroni, which will be seen in London for the first time. In keeping with the working method he defined in 1966, Toroni will display imprints of a No. 50 brush repeated at regular intervals of 30 cm. The gallery will present a dialogue between works of different dimensions and on various mediums, including canvas, foam board, and newspaper, produced between 1991 and 2020.

Toroni belongs to the first generation of European minimalist painters active since the 1960s. Using a flat brush 50 mm wide, together with a compass and a level for measuring distances, Toroni’s technique of repeated painted gestures derives from a desire to separate painting from traditional notions of authorship and originality. Over the last fifty years, Toroni has applied thousands of imprints in various monochromatic colours over multiple surfaces and objects, on the walls of museum, gallery, public, and domestic spaces. Toroni’s site-specific interventions are partly a means to blur traditions of canvas and wall-based painting to create environments where the act of painting appears both on canvases and walls at the same time, creating a continuum of space that has influenced a younger generation of artists. Equally, the repetitive painterly gesture “provides a constant against which endless variables – physical, conceptual, political, or personal – inspire new and transient interpretations” (Mara Oberman, Artforum, 2020).

Toroni’s radical vision of the act of painting refutes the idea of the artist as someone guided purely by subjectivity or inspiration, instead affirming that painting is the result of work. What Toroni designates as “work/painting” (“travail/peinture”) calls for the reiteration of one single, minimal gesture, which he makes a point of not delegating to anyone else. As the artist recently described, his painterly imprints are like the individuality of each footprint when one walks, repeated but never the same, each a trace of an ongoing journey of living. On the new collages, the imprints partly cover photographs of several of the artist’s earlier exhibitions. A witty mise-en-abyme, they evoke Toroni’s past but refer above all to the present, continually renewing our visual experience as “each imprint of a No. 50 is never the same”. Toroni’s ambition as an artist is for painting to offer “un apprentissage de la vision” – a way of learning to see.

Main image:

Niele Toroni

Empreintes de pinceau N°50 à intervalles réguliers de 30 cm, June 2019
Acrylic on canvas
28 3/4 x 19 3/4 x 1 in. (73 x 50 x 2.5 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
Copyright: Niele Toroni
Photo credit: Rebecca Fanuele


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