Riccardo Vecchio: Recent Paintings
by Cora Fisher
Astor Row Unlimited October 7 – November 1, 2009
The scenes in Riccardo Vecchio’s recent paintings are at first glance ambiguous in their evocation of a postwar cityscape—it’s hard to discern whether these places are in a state of reconstruction or stasis, whether they are tinted with nostalgia or tamed by the discipline of building a picture.
A road bends through a housing project in a city’s outskirts. The planes of the buildings are muted, save for little turquoise swatches shuttering the windows. How one navigates Vecchio’s rhythmic images of cities and outlying areas—judging by the density and uniformity of their housing blocks—would not be with the leisurely pace of a flâneur, but, to adopt the distinction made by the French Situationist Guy Debord, as a drifter. Debord described his “method” of the “derive” [literally: drifting] as “a technique of transient passage through varied ambiances.”
Vecchio’s images take interest in the tension between bodies and places; much in the same way Debord’s theories explored the tension between an architectural program and the psychology of how people move through spaces—a “psychogeography.” Debord mused: “from the dérive point of view cities have a psychogeographical relief.” This “relief” becomes more prominent with the long shadows of time. Vecchio’s paintings, based on recollections of his childhood in Italy, come with the freedoms and restrictions of memory, and certainly its psychogeography. Time gives Vecchio perspective to contemplate the relationship between city and inhabitant with greater artistic freedom.
From image to image, the relationship between bodies and architecture varies considerably. In some, banners splash public gathering places, or a brigade of blue-uniformed students play trumpets, providing a specific national and historical context. In others, bodies seem accidentally dispersed through urban space—in Debord’s language, drifting—breaking free from the architectural program—and therefore the psychology of a city. A large print, “Sesto San Giovanni,” depicts a town square with rubbed shadows and a palette of monochromatic earth tones. The simple figures in the foreground bear some resemblance to Romare Bearden’s collages, with backs rounded in deliberate contrast to the rectilinear architecture. Vecchio carefully controls the ambiance of the images, modulating the balance of detail and ambiguity. The paintings’ astringent light and concentration of small shapes exhibit something of a horror vacui or a desire to fill the gaps of memory with the precision of the image as verifiable presence.
“Preview” is another large print that Vecchio approaches architectonically, depicting bodies rather than buildings massed together, suffused by blue-black shadows and washed out by the bone-white light of the cinema. Debord’s understanding of culture and image-as-spectacle seems to act as a subtext here. The picture’s high contrast also recalls Roland Barthes’ essay, “Leaving the Cinema,” where he describes departing the cocoon of the theater and its communal suspension of reality, bleary-eyed and blinded by daylight. In “Il Pubblico,” bodies bear a group mindset, as opposed to the alienation and loneliness of Early Modernism, most popularly characterized by Picasso’s Blue Period.
Vecchio’s images arise from evocation rather than illustration, though, ironically, he has garnered much recognition as an illustrator. The populist impulse of his imagery, with its public piazzas and massed figures—here transplanted to a converted garage-turned-gallery in Bushwick—seem to comment broadly on the nature of cities rather than retreat into wistfulness for a singular place and time, even when we come to recognize their Italian elements. In cities, tension between durational change and controlled development define appearances, a cycle of tearing down and building up that serves as a practical and psychological model for Vecchio’s process of construction.
Advocating the populist medium of murals, Diego Rivera once said: “the social struggle is the richest, most intense and the most plastic subject which an artist can choose.” Indeed, Vecchio treats his subject as a plastic one, as malleable as memory can be, yet delimited by the present. Perhaps the notion of social struggle is peripheral to these images, but it kept itching at my brain as I left the gallery that night and passed a corridor of vacant new luxury condos on the way to the subway, trying to remember exactly what had occupied those lots before.
The Criterion Collection
Kudos also to Criterion for finding another interesting artist to do the cover illustrations for Danton, as they did with the Ophuls releases last year and with their hiring of various comic book artists. Riccardo Vecchio has a loose line quality that is almost anarchic in its approach to likenesses, and it totally fits Wajda's energetic cinematic portrait. Visit his site and be sure to check out the Shakespeare covers he's done.
The cover features the skyline photograph from the original first issue in 1968, this time rendered in metallic silver. The great Dan Winters shot all the original photography in the issue over a 2-week period in NY and LA. Illustrator Riccardo Vecchio painted 23 beautifully small portraits of famous new yorkers for the q&a's. With essays from Pete Hamill, Jay McInerney, and Kurt Andersen, among others, it is a unique look at New York city over the last 40 years.
Sold as Germany’s smallest gallery, this print-based exhibition is housed in a garden shed in the courtyard of a Rosenthaler Platz building.
The blip of a gallery—we’re talking 1.5 square meters—manages to fit 24 pieces by international illustrators.
For visitors who want to see the works outside the shed, each piece will be made as an addition of 50 and sold for 30 Euros—perhaps Germany’s least expensive gallery as well.
Wired, SPD entire issue Merit Awards
Wired picks its 10 Favorite 2007 Illustrations
RICHARD III - Pelican Shakespeare edition, illustration by Riccardo Vecchio - Not a great cover generally speaking, but the illustrations on this whole series are pretty fucking outstanding. Check the rad lion.
Short Listed in the New Yorker Magazine Art Section
DIFFERENT CITIES, DIFFERENT LOOKS
"Evocation of Memory: Recent Paintings by Riccardo Vecchio" features the painter's impressions of globalization through his virtual interpretations of modern cities like Milan and Rio. Today through Saturday, December 16, Visual Arts Gallery, 601 W. 26th St., between Eleventh and Twelfth avenue, 212-592-2145, free.
The New York Sun
This exhibition is the first public showing of Vecchio’s personal works referencing his multi-cultural background, developed over the past three years. Born in Italy, he studied in Germany and
after being awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study in New York, he came to SVA and earned his MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay in 1996. His composite paintings featured in the exhibition reflect
cityscapes from all over the world. Drawing on multiple locations, Vecchio has constructed a city that is part memory and part reality. At first glance, they may appear to be New York landscapes; a
second look reveals buildings in Milan, seamlessly integrated into the New York skyline.
In Vecchio’s words, “The object of this work is to develop a visual symbolism that allows me to depict the city as an evocation of memory. With this language, I can turn my attention to other aspects of reality as evocations of memory. I am not interested in abstracting or deconstructing to the point of non-recognition. I am interested in freeing elements from their functionality while maintaining the impact of that functionality. I don’t start out by trying to make a statement about the human condition, but the memory I am trying to portray is a memory of human interactions. Despite the fact that my working concern is formalistic, it is formalism serving a concern to reveal the outer world as an aspect of humanity.”
Chelse Art Galleries.com
Painter Riccardo Vecchio has an eye for distinguishing features. His stately-but-funky portraits of Beck, Fidel Castro and other cultural icons have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire and Rolling Stone. For the artist's first New York gallery exhibition, he has followed in the footsteps of his Italian forefathers to expand his repertoire into landscape painting. Over the past three years, Vecchio trained his eye on some of the world's greatest cities, including the modernist capital of Brazil, his hometown of Milan and New York City, where he teaches at the School of Visual Arts. In the longstanding Italian tradition of artists doing double duty as architects, Vecchio creates "virtual cities." These are places that don't exist but look familiar to city dwellers around the world. Buildings are spliced into blocks from the other centuries and countries, as Vecchio rewrites architectural history. "Evocation of Memory: Riccardo Vecchio Paintings" will be on view at the "Visual Arts Gallery".
Ricordi a forma di Metropoli
Citta` come reti intricate di uomini e cose. Paesaggi urbani cge evocano ricoedi. Edifici che simboleggiano relazioni, antiche e nuove. Memorie che affiorano dal cemento. Si intitola" Evocation of Memory" la mostra di Riccardo Vecchio, aperta a New York ( fino a 16 dicembre) presso la Visual Arts Gallery. I lavori di Vecchio sono tempere realizzate di recente, che evidenziano la formazione multiculturale dell'artista e il suo lungo viaggare per le citta` del mondo: italiano di nascita, ha una formazione tedesca (in Germania ha vinto una " Fulbright Scholarship che lo ha portato a New York) e una specializzazione americana (nel 1996 ha conseguito a NY il Master in Fine Arts).
Nov 27 - Dec 16, 2006 Opening Reception:Tue Nov 28 6pm - 8pm
“Evocation of Memory: Recent Paintings by Riccardo Vecchio”
Visual Arts Gallery, 601 W 26 St, 15 fl
To illustrate the point, he's created a giant virtual city by assembling paintings of Brasilia, New York and Milan in one exhibit. At the Visual Arts Gallery, through Dec. 16
Hot List, The New York Post
PAINT THE TOWN
Riccardo Vecchio is an exception to the those who can't do, teach rule. The acclaimed painter's work—including portraits of Beck, Fidel Castro, and other cultural icons—has graced the pages of The New Yorker, Harper's, and Esquire. But with teaching at New York's School of Visual Arts too, he's been a bit busy to have his own exhibition... until now. In "Evocation of Memory," Vecchio conjures up the disorientation one feels when lost in a new city. A New Yorker (by way of Italy and Germany), his "virtual cities"—constructed partly from memory, partly from reality—could be Milan, could be Manhattan, but are no less intriguing than Beck or Castro.