Louis Risoli
From his earlier small abstractions Louis Risoli's paintings have exploded in scale and subject. The last traces of hesitancy have been removed in these assertive and original works.



Risoli has not abandoned the thick paint, brilliant colors, or the propensity to pattern that were the strengths of his earlier paintings. But while these qualities were merely pleasing before, they now have been pushed into more complex formal relationships, pursued with more vigor and inventiveness, and freed from any convention of rote repetitiveness. 



What probably would strike most viewers about these paintings, however, is their equally powerful subject. These are works of an unabashed homoerotic content: body builders' torsos - monumental, stylized, and obsessive. Yet they are not reduced to mere fetishes: a complex interplay of images animates their relationship to both the viewer and the artist. Often the torsos are juxtuposed with bearded male faces staring out from the canvas; we are compelled to take the voyeurs stance even as we are stared at. In other canvases what might have appeared as bold abstraction coalesces into the image of a camera, a strip of film, tubes of paint from rthe artist's studio. At their essence these are paintings about the nature of making images, the relationship of  the artist to his work, and the viewer's interaction in these processes. These are paintings about the nature of self-consciousness.



These paintings bring to mind Marsden hartley's abstractions from 1914-1915, including his series of portraits of a German officer. The brilliance of color, the taut but intuitive compositions, a commensurate rawness of paint application, and a highly original and distinctive sense of personal necessity inform both artists' work. But whereas Hartley felt compelled to suppress the subject of his works - homage to his lover killed in the war - Risoli refuses to hide behind abstraction and enigmatic symbolism. 



Hartley was the only American of his time to adapt German Expressionism without being derivative, and we now recognize his early abstractions as among the best works of early American Modernism. We must consider the issue of personal content in painting as we are immersed in a deluge of neo-expressionism. Yet it is impossible to ignore a sense of speciousness of most of this work, an expressionism more conscious of style than of subject or substance. With Risoli's work, however, as with Hartley, we again feel an intuitive and intense sensibility for which Expressionism is more than simply being stylish.