Niele Toroni

Joe Scanlan, 1990

The Renaissance Society will inaugurate its exhibition season with an installation by Swiss installation artist Niele Toroni, a conceptual painter living and working in Paris. Since the mid-1960s Toroni has committed himself to investigating a particular concept and method of painting: imprints of a paint-laden, #50 brush made directly onto gallery walls at regular thirty centimeter intervals, until the gallery’s walls and ceiling—or sections of each—have an overall pattern of colorful and slightly imperfect squares. By walking within and accumulating the residual evidence of his installations, viewers become very aware of the physical involvement that is necessary and essential to Toroni’s work: his ladder climbing, measuring, dipping and imprinting, his obsessiveness. As Toroni has stated, “being obsessive is being alive.”

The overall size and chromatic range of Toroni’s “paintings” then, are determined by his response to the interior architecture of a given space, its physical dimensions and stylistic details, its quality and color of light. Thus The Renaissance Society’s breathtaking neo-gothic gallery space is the perfect aesthetic laboratory for Toroni. Its vaulted thirty foot ceiling, its sweeping vistas and natural light afford him an expansive and complex setting in which to mete out his serene and beautifully calculated marks.

The physical and conceptual duality of Toroni’s method creates many thoughtful contradictions within his work: the material existence of applied paint with its lack of materiality as a portable object; the systematic sameness of his application with the unique imperfection of each imprint; and the manner in which The Society’s exhibition space serves to simultaneously limit and support the artist’s work. Thus Toroni is a historically reductive, formally constrained, and yet optimistic painter, one who is committed to creating and continually expanding the possibilities of painting a opposed to lamenting its irrelevance or “end.”