Artist: Matteo Callegari
Venue: And Now, Dallas, US
Date: September 17 – October 15, 2016
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and And Now, Dallas
“Now Kitty, let’s consider who it was that dreamed it all.”
— Alice, in Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking Glass
The surface of Callegari’s paintings develops through a series of overlapping layers and rigorous rules self-imposed and meticulously followed by the artist.
In the two paintings in the first room, Abstract Intelligence and Fluid, Inventive, Adaptive, (most of the attributes used in the titles could refer alternatively to immaterial labor, abstraction or painting), the matte and flat orange background is superimposed by an enlarged detail that is painted with a glossy gradient pattern in a contrasting hue. Any reference to the starting image is gone, as if in the magnification effort, we lose contact with reality.
In the second room, hang at the opposite sides, are two paintings that look antithetic at first and yet they are related through a subtle repetition of forms. In Hard Labor/Tabula Rasa, 2016, the saturated color in the background emerges through a scraping into the surface of the grisaille layer applied by hand. The actual traces of the artist’s fingers are evident along the surface and the reflections of the interference blue paint adds an ethereal overlap. The Imaginary, the Symbolic, the Real, 2016, is part of a new series developed by Callegari and presented here for the first time: on top of the white and gray checkered background – used in the image editing computer program Photoshop to reveal a transparent layer – is painted a digital drawing line, together with its drop shadow. Opposite to the reaction in the first room, the displacement of the digital image out of its virtual reality, amplified by the extension of the checkered pattern in the space, emanates a surreal effect.
What is shared between the two paintings in each room is the mirror representation of the same trace: in the first room the enlarged gradient image is flipped but identical, while in the second, it is the drawing line in the two paintings that is the same and reversed, although the different background in the canvases makes this similarity less obvious.
Besides the layers overlap, at the core of his painting technique, what Callegari is most interested in is to create a significant amount of repetition to bring to light the criteria that informed his paintings. Each painting emerges from a tension between the restraint of the imposed rules and the uniqueness of each work in its specificity.
The reversed effect of the pattern and the drawing trace is another leitmotif of Callegari’s oeuvre: through the mirror we are able to delineate the double identity of each object but also to recognize ourselves. In the novel Through the Looking Glass, written by Lewis Carroll six years after Alice in Wonderland, the protagonist is now self aware and possesses a more mature psyche than the infantile one performed in Wonderland. It’s the double function of the mirror that makes this shift possible: the mirror is a snare but also a means of escape, depending on the way we make use of it. Alice used it to go beyond it, but she also relives by means of the mirror what she leaves behind her, recapitulating her childhood stages. Callegari uses the mirror in a similar twofold way: it’s a tool to confront an image with its abstraction, but at the same time it questions the surface and the background, while addressing the narcissistic dialectic between the digital and the analog and its impossible resolution.
 Rackin, Donald, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Nonsense, Sense and Meaning, Twayne’s Masterwork Series, New York, Twayne Publishers, 1991