Tony De Blasi
Tony DeBlasi
The development of my present work had its start when I became curious about working in the third dimension as a painter. Although there have been earlier periods of experimentation with three-dimensional painting, I believe that potential is still there to be explored as a painter. Important too are Moorish and Islamic architectural designs with their energetic, linear low relief, which I studied while in North Africa and Spain, as well as crazy quilts with their recognition of disorder, children’s pop up books and jazz.

My early work, not shown, can be best described as consisting of linear abstract forms made of heavy-bodied paint. They functioned as gestural shapes in front of the picture plane, and continued modestly beyond the canvas edge. Michigan State University, where I was Professor of Art in painting for 20 years, a six months sabbatical leave was allowed which I spent in Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, and Morocco studying their art and architecture as it related to my work. In these countries, particularly Spain, I was impressed with the art of the Moors, especially their architectural motifs and designs. Although not responding to their preference for symmetry, I found their use of color, movement and energetic rhythm in the context of low relief to be extremely valuable for my work.

By this time I had already assimilated a good deal from the works of certain artists, including the colorful and ambiguous, “Cutouts” by Matisse, Kandinsky’s energetic “Improvisations,” Kline’s gestural structuring, Ellsworth Kelly’s perfect balance of color to form and that of Twombly’s animated “scribbles”.

What I learned from these artists as well as from my sabbatical studies formed the basis from which my approach developed. This ultimately led me to eliminate the canvas and the rectangular format. The resulting work consisted of abstract shapes and gestures individually cut from wood, painted and arranged directly on the wall, somewhat like low relief sculpture.

The most recent work is considerably more linear, evocative of a line drawing made three-dimensional and extending 15” further out from the wall. The content and attitude, and approach to color are still that of a painter. The quality of the line and the cast shadows on the wall set it apart from sculptural concerns. The three dimensional form adds the ability to create order and disorder through spatial illusions, one form becoming another based on the viewing angle.

My work has always represented a sense of curiosity an encouragement to go beyond artistic and social barriers in order to search for one’s own identity. In my past and present work references can be found to writing and calligraphy, to optimism through color and movement, and to music, particularly jazz. For me, the commonality of these expressions lies in the ability of each to create a flow of energy through visual, metaphysical or auditory means; and of each, the ability to motivate me, when next pursuing my work.

March 2016