Painting Between the Machine and the Hand

For a part of May 2023, Lydia Dona’s summary artwork may very well be seen in three separate New York exhibitions, every of which provided a distinct perspective on what she has been as much as since 2008,  30 years after she moved to New York in the late 1970s from Jerusalem and started making a reputation for herself. Although Dona had her first solo present in New York in 1979, she didn’t start exhibiting repeatedly till the mid-1980s, when the artwork world’s consideration was dominated by Neo-Expressionism and Neo-Geo, and many artists had been enjoying out the finish of Modernism. 

From the mid-’80s till the early ’90s, Dona exhibited usually in New York, however her exhibits turned extra sporadic after that, and her work by no means turned branded, like that of others of her technology, reminiscent of Peter Halley. With her three May exhibitions, together with a gaggle present, Schema: World as Diagram at Marlborough Gallery, curated by Raphael Rubinstein and Heather Bause Rubinstein, I had the alternative to get a contemporary perspective on a widely known artist of the 1980s.

In the catalogue accompanying Schema: World as Diagram, Raphael Rubinstein wrote: 

Dona is preoccupied with the city surroundings. These are work created with a eager sense of the invisible infrastructure that retains a metropolis operating and, much more, of the fixed breakdowns of city programs. In their very range of sources, their multiplicity of overlapping languages, I see Dona’s work as reflections of the place the place they’re made, New York City, this dynamic web site of “borderline engagements.”

Lydia Dona, “Levels in Momentum” (2012), oil, acrylic, metallic and signal paint on canvas, 84 x 64 inches

Dona started exhibiting in the mid-’80s, and her work was seen in connect with Jonathan Lasker, Fabian Marcaccio, and David Reed — artists excited about the relation between the direct software of paint and the photographic presentation, the unique and the copy, amongst different issues. Within all these approaches was a priority with the handmade and the mechanical. With her work and visible vocabulary, Dona will get proper to the coronary heart of the drawback, the relationship between the machine and the hand. Her work deliver collectively abstraction and illustration, the hand-drawn mark and the projected picture. Through her interweaving and vary of paint functions, she defers a conclusion concerning portray’s potentialities, largely as a result of she likes paint’s mutability — what may be achieved if you deliver collectively oils, acrylic, enamel, metallic paint, and laminated iron oxide powder, all of that are in “High Impact” (2016). 

The 9 giant work in the exhibition Lydia Dona, put in in the foyer atrium at 375 Hudson Street, curated by Jay Grimm, are dated from 2008 to 2018. In the largest, “From Heat to Sub-Zero” (2008), the artist defines the territory she has explored ever since that point, utilizing pictures derived from automobile manuals together with completely different sorts of paint. While Rubinstein’s statement presents a great way to grasp what Dona is doing, it doesn’t go far sufficient, which can be one cause her work isn’t thought of by most in the artwork world at the identical stage as Peter Halley and Jonathan Lasker. She has not prioritized essential principle in her work. She has not revealed a guide of essays or issued a manifesto, nor has she hooked up her work to a essential narrative.

Dona creates line drawings of automobile engines, mechanical components, gadgets, and tubing, most frequently utilizing an overhead projector. The picture could also be superimposed upon an summary discipline, which is more likely to be layered and composed of formally distinct areas that vary from graphic distinction (mild to darkish) to tonal shifts (i.e., orange towards rust pink in “From Heat to Sub-Zero”). She might partially obscure the picture with a splash or gestural mark, creating friction between picture and mark, the mechanical and the handmade, management and give up. But her juxtapositions, layering, and superimpositions by no means appear arbitrary; she works the whole lot out in a portray course of that appears open ended reasonably than formulaic. She exploits the explicit properties of her medium in ways in which bind the disparate parts collectively. 

Lydia Dona, “Busted Into Light” (2018), oil, acrylic, metallic paint on canvas, 60 x 72 inches

In “Platinum Journeys” (2016), a thick, encrusted puddle of black enamel in the higher center of the canvas stands in sharp distinction to the remainder of the portray. As against what appear to be crudely drawn spools and a crank shaft, {a partially} obscured linear picture close to the puddle isn’t readily identifiable. Is it mechanical or natural? 

A visit to New York in 1915 impressed Francis Picabia to deal with equipment, and he attributed his exploration of machine drawings to his expertise of the United States. After transferring to New York, Dona started exploring the aftermath of what Picabia known as “the genius of the modern world.” Does the black puddle check with the waste we have now produced in the identify of modernity? Is it leakage from a machine or a sign that the machine has damaged down? Are the tubes and engines making an attempt to revive portray? 

The ambiguity we encounter in Dona’s work is an correct reflection of her personal deep-rooted uncertainty concerning portray’s potentialities, in addition to resistance to reaching conclusions about the failures of modernism. For greater than three a long time, this ambiguity has generated enigmatic abstractions that be part of collectively legible and indecipherable components. Dona treats completely different features of abstraction, together with gesture and monochrome, equally to machine manuals, as discovered materials. What makes her work greater than a sequence of appropriations is her love of paint — as each materials and course of. 

Lydia Dona, “From Heat to Sub-Zero” (2008), oil, acrylic, metallic paint & enamel on canvas, 84 x 192 inches (courtesy personal assortment)

Schema: World as Diagram continues at Marlborough Gallery (545 West 25th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) by August 11. The exhibition was curated by Raphael Rubinstein and Heather Bause Rubinstein.

Lydia Dona continues at 375 Hudson (375 Hudson Street, Soho, Manhattan) by February 2024. The exhibition was curated by Jay Grimm.

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