Artist's description:

Multiple layers of various tones of neutral paint are layed over high color, painted canvases to create a “ghost like“ effect. The painting continues around the 3 inch gallery-wrapped edges giving an added dimension to the piece. Framing is not necessary however the painting can be set off in a floating frame if desired

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Below is a review by Ed McCormack published in 2009 when the series was first exhibited.

Charting the Abstract Sublime

Normally, the formal and the romantic are regarded as polar opposites. However, the painter Stephen Cimini, a recent recipient of a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, can be seen as a romantic in the same paradoxical sense that the older artist Sean Scully, whose “stripe” paintings share a similar fondness for pure geometry, employs the term when he says, “I hold to a very romantic ideal of what’s possible in art ....I’m going against the current ideal of bizarreness, oddness...”

As in his previous paintings, the thirteen compositions in Cimini’s “Ghost Series” are built on adjoining, interlocking, and overlapping rectangles. Yet as I have written elsewhere in regard to this artist’s work, it is a romantic –– even a radical –– gesture in today’s eclectic art scene to embrace precision and a certain reductiveness. And in Cimini’s case, it would seem that the more he removes from his paintings, the richer the experience of encountering them can become for the viewer.

The latest thing to go in Cimini’s “Ghost Paintings” were the deliciously saturated, sensually smoldering hues –– particularly the seductive purples and violets –– prominent in his solo show at Noho Gallery last year, which could then have seemed indispensable to his aesthetic.

Color is still present in the new paintings, albeit muted to a palette of pale, milky pastel and putty hues enlivened by a remarkable variety of subtle painterly textures and tonal modulations within several successive layers of oil paint mixed with the marble dust and the wax-medium that the artist employs to lend his pigments “an organic feel.”

The chalky effect of the marble dust, combined with the soft patina which the wax-medium imparts, results in a surface that might more properly be termed sensuous than sensual. Its semi-translucency enables the viewer to perceive a paradoxical sense of layered depth within the ostensibly two-dimensional picture plane, as well as to see the “scribble marks,” made with colored china markers, that are often a part of Cimini’s painterly process, but are usually obscured in the finished painting.

These now faintly visible vestiges of a Twombly-esque ecriture, most prominent in the canvas aptly entitled “Automatic Writing,” not only add a daring sense of randomness within a precise geometric context but enhance the spectral element implicit in the series’ title. At the same time, the delicate markings impart a phantom radiance, a sense of sinuous linear auras within the waxen “skin” of the paintings, which plays off exquisitely against the more definite traces of color that Cimini embeds within the precisely incised lines defining his geometric divisions.

What the new coloristic austerity in the “Ghost Paintings” accomplishes most effectively is to focus attention even more thoroughly than before on the classical attributes of Cimini’s compositions. The artist himself has attributed the combination of restraint, balance, proportion, and order in his paintings to his early interest in architecture, explaining that his present abstract vocabulary evolved directly from “the linear landscape of New York City.”

Yet what really makes one sit up and take notice is the degree to which he has refined and pared down the forms that initially inspired him to create his unique abstract style. For to a degree that has become increasingly rare in contemporary painting, the work of Stephen Cimini is informed by what the twentieth-century Swiss art critic Heinrich Wölfflin, who clarified so many principles of classicism for the modern age, referred to as “the complete cultivation and education of the eye.”

Ed McCormack, a former columnist and feature writer for Rolling Stone, and one of the original contributing editors of Andy Warhol’s Interview, has written extensively on art and popular culture for the Village Voice and numerous other publications. Presently, with his wife Jeannie McCormack, he co-publishes the New York art journal Gallery & Studio.

Materials used:

oil paint, cold wax medium and marble dust on canvas

Slate Blues (2009)


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