Renato Muccillo

Silent Horizon Study, Renato Muccillo, 6″ x 6″, oil on panel

Distillations, a solo exhibition of Renato Muccillo’s most recent work, opens Saturday at Arcadia Contemporary in SoHo. I received a catalog of the work in advance of the show and this very small painting stood out, not as the most stunning or even the one I would most want to own, but because at that scale it’s almost bafflingly masterful. Steve Diamant represents quite a few artists who are able to work so small they could almost be classified as miniaturists. Muccillo is able to paint within these dimensions about as well as anyone working now. In this show, Muccillo extends his exploration of the golden hour when night and day give way to each other, and also explores landscapes at other times of day and from new angles. A number of paintings are stunningly simplified images working from a drone’s-eye view, gazing down at the Alouette River in British Columbia. The effect is more abstract, with the water serving almost as raw negative space. The composition of Corridor brings to mind the ragged, vertically ascending streaks of paint in a Clyfford Still. Using drone shots of watery landscape is something Christopher Burke has explored for years; he pushes his images to an even more simplified, abstract level, in a wonderful way. Muccillo retains his more traditional rendering even with these aerial views, yet he uses the freedom this perspective gives him to design an image energized by its kinship with abstraction. In all of his work, he’s able to capture the most subtle transitions of light on the surface of the land, on plants, hills, clouds. In Silent Horizon Study, above, his typically deft handling of long grass–bringing to mind both Durer and John Henry Twachtman–he seems to capture not simply the complex thicket of individual strands but, in the tips that bend and fold toward the viewer, the grass seems to reflect the exact color of the unseen sky above the viewer’s head, bluish white, distinct from its warm tone in the distance, over the horizon. He puts you into the scene itself, so that you almost feel the temperature of the air, the scent of the season, the gradual shift of clouds, the silence. I’m heading back to New York City today and will be stopping in to see these paintings while I’m there.

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