Angelina Gualdoni's works on canvas take patterns, interiors and abstraction as their main focus, locating the rhythm of the everyday sublime in the language of color field painting. Often staining both sides of the canvas, her paintings operate as fluid scrims between still life, color field and pattern and decoration. Gualdoni's paintings have been the subject of solo and group shows nationally and internationally at the Queens Museum, NY, St. Louis Art Museum, MO, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, The Aldrich Museum, Connecticut, the Museum de Paviljoens, Netherlands, and the Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY. Her work resides in the Saatchi Collection, as well as the MCA, Chicago, and the Nerman Museum, Kansas City. She has been the beneficiary several grants and fellowships, including Artadia, Pollock-Krasner, NYFA (2008, 2015), and has attended residencies at MacDowell Colony, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, International Studio and Curatorial Program, and Chateau La Napoule. Gualdoni received her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, her MFA from the University of Illinois in Chicago.
She resides and works Brooklyn and is represented by Asya Geisberg Gallery in New York. Gualdoni is one of 11 co-curators at an artist-run exhibition space, Regina Rex, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
I am interested in domestic interiors as a locus of economic and social issues concerning labor, as well as a site where mimesis comes into conflict with the abstract.
While my formal interests dovetail with early modern painters of interiors and still lives, my lived experience of domestic space is one that hosts multiple forms of labor, especially as the roles of the artists expand. The "job" of the artist is no longer just to make art/paintings, but also to curate, administrate, maintain an online presence, while fulfilling familial/care-taking obligations and whatever else one does for employment. The home becomes the studio, the office, the gallery, salon, and the residence. The collapsing of these structures, as Lane Relyea notes in Your Everyday Art World, was inspired by a DIY ethos, initially understood as liberating and empowering, but ultimately shifts all risk onto participants. All forms of labor simultaneously impede upon each other and compete for attention. Boundaries are necessary but imperfectly enforced, separation becomes difficult, if not impossible; emails, Instagrams, phone calls and plans, kids, lunches, shows, and studio visits necessitate constant negotiation of boundaries and focus. Painting's simultaneous nature makes it a necessary and vital format for exposing these demanding conditions.
I start my paintings with a stained pattern, often a variation on historical women artists designs (Sonia Delaunay, Varvara Stepanova, Lyubov Popova, Vanessa Bell). This layer establishes a background of repetition, upon which I then impose silhouettes of houseplants, vases, or curtain/columns. My efforts to contain the pour within the structure of representation are constantly over-run by subsequent pours. Handling paint in this way reflects both pleasure in exceeding boundaries and making a mess, as well as frustration with the boundaries impermanence. I vary surface texture, using metallic paint, pumice, and mica in areas in order to emphasize multiplicity, difference, and conflict, attempting to synthesize multiple strategies into a whole space.
Using stain painting in this way refers to both the legacy of post-painterly abstraction (Frankenthaler, Louis) and textile design and manufacture, a sector of "applied arts" that women have often turned to in order to both express political ideologies, and to make money when none could be made by their "fine art" paintings. By dialoging with these histories, I hope to establish that the current condition of multitasking forms of labor (recognized and unrecognized) has been a long standing issue with women and work, inside the home and without.
Q&A with Angelina Gualdoni
Questions by Emily Burns
Hi Angelina! In your statement, you state that “Boundaries are necessary but imperfectly enforced, separation becomes difficult, if not impossible; emails, instagrams, phone calls and plans, kids, lunches, shows, and studio visits necessitate constant negotiation of boundaries and focus. Painting’s simultaneous nature makes it a necessary and vital format for exposing these demanding conditions.” Can you elaborate on your thoughts on the simultaneous nature of painting, and its relationship to the demanding, always-on experience of life as an artist today?
This is one of the qualities I love most about painting: the all-at-once-ness, the tension of seeing compression and expansion of time in an image, and the stuff of paint simultaneously. That ability to dissolve and resolve within a single moment is kind of magical, a way of escaping the constriction of our linear/sequential perceptions. To me it’s analogous to the simultaneous consciousness that technology promotes, which is also similar brain-space to anyone who organizes, administers or manages people, as care-takers or as employees. It’s almost an over-sensitivity to all the things that are happening at once, and trying to make sense of it all, put it all in some order or perspective.
This visual condition does not extend positively to a life condition—in fact the opposite. I find the demands of being “always on” to be exhausting, and am actively trying to distill life activities down in order to really sink into some of the painting issues I’m interested in. That’s the boundary part, setting aside other things to do a few well, or better.
You mentioned that you start your work by “establish(ing) a background of repetition, upon which I then impose silhouettes of houseplants, vases, or curtain/columns.” Can you talk about the importance of the repetition in the background?
Well, women keep the tempo, right? The patterns I use are the rhythms of days, nights, weeks and years. Sometimes they are backdrop, sometimes a cloak—but they’re pretty omni-present. Using them is a way for me to refer to the structure and architecture of time in days, as well as drawing an analogy between my life and practice, and that of the other artists and designers that I’m drawing from.
Can you tell us more about the significance of sourcing patterns from specific artists? What is it about the work of the women artists you mentioned (Sonia Delaunay, Varvara Stepanova, Lyubov Popova, Vanessa Bell) that draws you to them as source material?
Visual pleasure is probably what draws me into any source at the outset: Delaunay’s textiles in particular had such an effortlessness, rhythm and joy to them, Stepanova is highly complex and disciplined, while Bell is the most whimsical and playful of them three. All of these women started as painters, some maintained that aspect of their practice while others gave it up for financial or political reasons of wanting to speak to a broader public, or out of deference to male partners who were also painters. I’m super interested in ways that women artist have found alternatives to fine art painting by choice or circumstance. It’s complicated to talk about, because the proportions of choice to obligation can become very fuzzy—especially since the ways in which they thought about gender expectations can be very different than how we frame them today. We see examples of conforming to gender norms in their choices, but also persistence in alternate creative practices. Like, “well, if I can’t do it here, then I’ll do it here”. But the “can’t” assumes restrictions, when a lot of these women came from wealthy families that supported their educations. Some had access to trust funds, which later dried up, some had to flee to the country to avoid war, so there is a quality of “making do” that is really attractive to me. Of course, this is all on the production side—all of these women artists didn’t have the exhibition opportunities or remuneration that their male counterparts did. So the tension in cultural and economic valuation of textiles and pattern painting and discussion around ornamentation is compelling to me.
Working with poured paint, or staining the canvas, how do you decide what will be poured vs. what will be more controlled by your hand? Are you using any other methods to limit your control of other materials?
I want to draw connections between between textile dyeing, staining and mid-century color field painting. Using the pour establishes a visual ground which interferes with or overruns the pattern, and then objects and spaces are done more by hand. Since I’ve been doing it for a decade now, I generally have an idea of what I want and how to get it, but since I started working both sides of the canvases trying to make stains come through the anterior side it’s been a whole new level of problem solving and micro-knowledge about canvas and solubility. I used to be a taping fiend, but no more! Everything is done by hand: if the pour needs to have a controlled edge I’ll do that through viscosity or through modulating dry and wet areas of the canvas.
Complicating fine art and applied arts, what draws you to painting as the final medium as opposed to working in an applied art medium? Have you always worked as a painter?
Painting was my beginning and end, though my path through it has not been straight. I am the daughter of a painter, which both inspired me, and probably deterred me at first from following in those footsteps. I entered college thinking that I was going to major in photography and graphic design so I could make album covers like Vaughn Oliver did for 4AD. I did a lot of printmaking, collage and installation in undergrad and early graduate work, at which point I realized I had to commit to either a medium or an approach, and I’d always had the most fun painting, so there was that. Now, it’s home.
I am married to painting, but I had an affair with ceramics last year! When I started on the wheel I wished I could clone myself so I could live a whole other life as a potter. Ceramics are DEEP—it’s like the whole cosmos, sex and the creation story is there in any pot at any wheel. There are similarities in glazing processes and stain painting too, of course… but, at this point, painting is my language, it’s how I understand and interpret images in the world, and it takes so much time to really do it well that I had to leave ceramics. We might have an affair again one day, but in the meantime, you’ll see portraits of these lovers in my paintings.
What is one of the most exciting things happening in your studio right now?
Major scale shifts in objects! I never really thought about the power of scale to shift our understanding of space. It’s super fun to think of point of view being very close up, or small worlds that become large. This is probably also on my mind because my five year old daughter is really into creating small play spaces for her small animals and buddies, which is also something I did when young… so that view of creating a different world in a small space, with your nose and eyes pressed up into it is something that I’ve been thinking about.
What do you listen to while you work?
Do I need to make decisions in a painting?
YES >> Classical or ambient
NO >> DO I FEEL LIKE DANCING?
YES>> Duane Train! (WFMU), or House Music
NO>> Brian Lehrer or Podcast
DO I FEEL LIKE SINGING?
YES>> The Smiths, Chet Baker, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Jorge Ben Jor, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, any 80’s and 90’s RnB
NO>> What does Spotify think I like today? Maybe I should learn about new bands anyway, god I feel old.
Has there ever been a book/essay/poem/film/etc that totally changed or influenced you? What are you reading right now?
Tarkovsky’s Stalker was foundational in linking a romantic landscape and architecture with metaphysical questions, which in a way is still where my work points, even if from interiors. Recently I started watching the new Twin Peaks again. I wondered if seeing David Lynch’s empty spaces as a teenager were actually my first encounter with the uncanny in interiors, or projection and suspense, that feeling of something is about to happen...
Other majors: Lydia Davis, Bulgakov, John Berger, Teju Cole, Jan Verwoert, Katie Siegel, Sans Soleil/Chris Marker, Rules of the Game/Jean Renoir, La Dolce Vita/Fellini, Army of Shadows/Melville.
Reading now: Fuck Seth Price.
Any advice from your past that has stuck with you or helped you?
From Fred Tomaselli, at Skowhegan: have a hobby! He spent a lot of time fly fishing that summer. It’s true, though, especially after doing art for a while, when you know your territory, that’s when activities that lead you to new people, places, and experiences are the most important. For me this has been foraging, especially mushrooms, but I’m learning how to ID more plants and trees as my mycological knowledge grows, and it’s all fascinating, and incredibly delicious, if you know what you are doing. People always laugh because I make a point of not revealing anything about my spots, but I’m also very open to exploring new spots with anyone who wants to come for a walk in the woods. It’s so rare to have the time to do that with just one or two other people, it becomes a great way to know someone better, as well as learning how to read and describe the landscape.
Do you have any advice for artists who are interested in building community and finding a sincere audience for their work?
Be interesting, be proactive, make the world you want to be in... have something to offer. Whether it’s humor, critique, ideas, energy, starting a space, hosting dinners, the social component is one that I think a lot of artists (myself included) struggle with, especially since a lot of us are introverts. But reach out first—try to do studio visits with people you admire, and ask them who you should see next. Repeat. Eventually, have them over to your studio, but only when you’re ready! This is where hobbies come in handy as well—other things to talk about, ways to bond with people.
What is one of the best exhibitions you have seen recently?
I fell in love with Silke Otto-Knapp’s Monotones show at Mary Boone last fall—the paintings were silver-y grey landscapes populated with groups of people dancing, doing yoga, or just… being together in this incredibly luminous light. There were magical, I can’t decide if I want to live with or in one of those paintings. Also, there was this show at the Grand Palais in Paris last summer called Carambolages—it’s a game that’s similar to pinball or pool, and the conceit was that curators just kind of bounced visually from one object to the next, including works from all over the world and all eras of humanity. On one hand it was extremely problematic in that it removed all cultural context and meaning… on the other they brought out all of these weird visionary perverse paintings, objects and artifacts that never see the light of day. It was a fascinating show.
What has been one of the most challenging aspects of your career as an artist so far?
There is a quality of restlessness to my work over time—I wax and wane in commitment to abstraction or representation. At the heart of my work is still an interest in light, site and experience, filtered through multiple languages of painting. But because I’ve privileged freedom and change over a more disciplined consistent approach I think that I’ve put myself at a disadvantage commercially and critically. It’s something I’m still trying to address, with different efforts at disciplining my migratory impulses.
How do you view the role of social media in the social and professional life of an artist?
It’s how I find out about a lot of events, how I see a lot of things, it’s fun, it’s distracting. One thing I have learned, though, is that Facebook is waaaaay more compelling as a tool to learn about select interests. Facebook groups is really where it’s at—now i go just to learn more about mushroom identification and recipes from people who spend even more time in the kitchen than I do. Breaks up the stream of political anxiety and self-promotion (which I am totally guilty of as well.)
Do you have any other news, shows, residencies or projects coming up?
I’m excited to be part of a show at the ICA at Maine College curated by Michelle Grabner this summer called American Genre—tons of great painters, including a lot of people in my community that I have great affinity for (Michael Berryhill, Aliza Nisenbaum, Dana DeGuilio) and others that are new to me that I’m excited to see for the first time. I’m also working towards my next solo show at Asya Geisberg Gallery.
Thank you so much for sharing your work and talking with us!
To find out more about Angelina and her work, check out her website.