New York, 11 January – 17 February 2024
Lisson Gallery is pleased to present the first solo exhibition at the gallery with New York based painter Tony Bechara (b. Puerto Rico, 1942). The exhibition will present a selection of brand new acrylic paintings formulated by the random placement of 28 colors in quarter-inch squares covering the canvas, a method developed by the artist over the past five decades.
Tony Bechara’s dynamic, color-saturated paintings create a pure field of physical perception. Each canvas is meticulously painted with multicolor areas of quarter-inch squares. Using strips of masking tape, Bechara arranges carefully formulated hues into a playful and invigorating optical surface, made up of a multitude of small colored units. The work’s overall rhythm is determined by a process that is systematic but designed to allow combinations of color to emerge by chance. Bechara cites influences across art history, including the colors of Matisse and Vuillard, the pointillism of Seurat and Signac, traditions of weaving and crafting, the famed Byzantine-era mosaics at Ravenna, and the precision of hard-edge abstraction, particularly the work of Leon Polk Smith, a previous tenant of Bechara’s studio. These influences are evidenced in Bechara’s approach to painting: he uses a tile-like grid as the basis for his explorations into the principles of color usage, particularly the intersection of organization and randomness. The division of the surface of the painting into small modular boxes is similar to pixels; the gaze is constantly in motion. Bechara presents the viewer with their retinal and neurological relationship to color, balancing one’s immediate impression of hue and the overarching logic of pattern.
Bechara’s earliest iterations of the colored grid date to the early 1970s with works such as Abstract Composition (1970-71) and Red Skin (1971). Around this time, just as Bechara was emerging on the New York art scene, the concept of the grid as a self-referential object regained prevalence as a mode of abstract painting. For Bechara, the grid has proven the ideal vehicle for his central artistic preoccupation – the phenomenology of color. In the ensuing decades, the artist’s explorations of the colored grid have evolved into two principal typologies, the monochrome and the random. In both variations, the process begins with Bechara’s conception of a color formula, an arbitrary selection of a predetermined number of colors which will fill out the grid. The canvas is divided into ¼ inch strips using tape, and the artist then applies dashes of color at will to the exposed areas, square by square. This technique is repeated a total of four times, as Bechara tapes over the painted sections and applies color to the exposed surfaces until the grid is completely filled. The artist refers to this process as “painting blind,” since the previously painted areas of the canvas are concealed from his view and he must rely on his memory of the tapped sections to inform his choice of colors. This notion of blindness attests to the artist’s keen interest in the role of randomness and chance as a counterbalance to the grid’s orderliness in the creation of his work.
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