THE PAINTING OF CLAUDE CARONE
By Kim Sloane, February 2020, Copake, NY
Claude Carone’s paintings are physical locations for particular emotional states. They operate simultaneously on many registers. Shifting realities of the tangible and the abstract, the observed and the imagined, poetically resolve through visual analogies between distant worlds. The inherent paradoxes of painting are harnessed to create movement and energy. Material is animated in a masterful manipulation that elevates the form to the level of symbol. The paint lives at once as stroke, shape and sign.
The primary metaphor is landscape. Horizontals call to mind horizons. Textures are at once moss-covered rock and vaporous atmosphere, often calling to mind an ether entering a liquid state. We look through and across spaces both intimate and infinite. Drips signify gravity and provide orientation. Opposing line and shape ascend, fixing us somewhere between heaven and earth.
Color and the light are both distilled from nature and wrested from the history of painting. Harmonies and contrasts are created using natural pigments and can be precise analogs to the late afternoon raking winter light that plays on the fields, trees, and stream behind the artist’s Hudson Valley studio. Synthetic muted primary and secondary hues evoke other worlds that are reminiscent of Florentine predellas or Persian miniatures. The color is specific, surprising, personal, and carefully correlated to a particular tenor.
The paintings originate in automatism and chance. Pigment and vehicle are applied spontaneously, worked and reworked, until a rhythm is found and developed. Rhythm is the animating force of these paintings. It is comprised of two complementary elements, the stroke and the interval. The stroke is the mark, the interval is the distance in time and space between the strokes. Finding the interval, the right measure between marks, is the essential element in drawing. Carone understands this completely. It is the precision of interval that creates or dissolves a plane, and that creates a boundary that simultaneously lives as the edge of multiple forms. It is attention to interval that determines depth and location. Small adjustments of intervals can collapse space or send us into an infinite distance.
The chance operations that produce the rhythms also generate the image. Significance is not predetermined, but arrived at through the signs that make up the image. The signs may appear before, at the same time, or after the signified. Once recognized, the signs speak to us as content and work as formal elements. The rhythms of signs create a fluid movement of ideas in the work, one which we can join on many levels, and at any point, creating a synchronous merging of the varied and ambitious pursuits of the work.
Time is a palpable presence in these painting. The same intervals that create the space in these pictures also create movement in time. The intervals hold both histories and promises, reminders, and suggestions of future insights and experience. The coincidence of past and future energizes our present. Titles of Carone’s painting suggest that time is indeed a subject; “New Frontier” in 2016, “Beyond Us” of 2013, and “Nature’s Ghost” of 2016.
The light and the suggestiveness of the forms in Carone’s paintings gives the quality of being both of this world, and beyond it. Alberto Savinio, a painter and author, and the brother of Giorgio De Chirico, states that metaphysical painting signifies everything that continues the existence of reality beyond the apparent aspects of reality itself. Metaphysical painting often achieves this transcendence using redolent light and the juxtaposition of objects in surprising arrangements. Claude Carone carries this ambition forward. He captures well the crepuscular light of the metaphysical, however, the reality he continues is not that of the objective world, but that of the substance of his materials and the forms they create. This material reality is extended and continued into the spiritual realm. The paint can convey both solid and atmosphere, it can both materialize dematerialize. To extend this transformation elements of collage are introduced that can be read as bodies.
A piece of wallpaper carefully shaped is held in tension in a vast space. It hovers. Added import is given by its being placed at the apex of an implied triangle. This shape will precipitate a continuous mental movement. The wallpaper will suggest a bird, the bird will then become a dove, and then the dove becomes a numinous symbol.
Carone also uses corrugated cardboard as a collage element. In Neo-Platonic thought the outer skin is just a container that covers the soul. The physical, the earthly, the apparent reality, is a shell, that when removed will release the spirit within. The flayed skin, with sagging self-portrait, in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment is an image of this, an exhausted husk longing for spiritual fulfillment. So, it is in these paintings with the corrugated cardboard. When the outer layer is removed, the form is exposed and the spirit within is released. It is the incarnation of cardboard. Humble earthly materials take on a metaphysical mystical existence.
The paintings in this exhibition are the result of long study. They are modest in size, but not in scale or aspiration. They demonstrate an uncommon mastery. Everything counts, every quarter inch, every calibration of color, contributes to the expression. The paintings are concentrations of experience. De Kooning said “there are three toads at the bottom of my garden, Line, Color and Form.” Claude Carone was raised in this garden and he continues in a tradition of painters who understand that it is in the essential equivocations of painting that its meanings are found. It the creation of space on the flat surface, that paint can make bodies and disembody, that stillness can evoke time and be timeless. These paradoxes raise the deep questions that painting can ask – what is the nature of the universe, what are its materials, and spirit, and what is our place in this grand scheme?