On Friday 12 March 2010 (6-8 PM) the American Academy in Rome will see the opening of a new solo show “Pavimentazione sul Muro” by noted geometric abstract painter Stephen Westfall. Westfall is currently the Jules Guerin/John Armstrong Chaloner Rome Prize Fellow in Visual Arts at the American Academy. He came to the Academy as Assistant Professor in the Visual Arts at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, and Painting Co-chair at the Milton Avery School of the Arts at Bard College. Westfall’s show will be on exhibit at the AAR through Friday 23 April.
Stephen Westfall has been exploring and reacting to the intricate designs of the medieval cosmatesque floors that decorate many Roman churches and which make extensive use of triangles of colored marble. He has also been deeply impressed by the muscular geometries of ancient Roman mosaics and Baroque marble floors, Modernist Italian graphic design, and the distinctive lines and grids of Rationalist architecture.
In 2007, inspired by the scale of a stained glass project he was working on, Westfall exhibited a sequence of large wall paintings at Solvent Space, an experimental installation space in Richmond, Virginia. This project integrated his post-Pop/Minimalist imagery with the scale and proportions of a free standing, two story brick building with two garage doors. The doors were held open for the life of the exhibition, for the first time in the gallery’s history, and the open view turned the building into a giant Fabergé egg—if the Fabergé workshop had been trained by Walter Gropius and Roy Lichtenstein. Westfall executed another wall painting as a centerpiece to his exhibition at the Lennon, Weinberg Gallery in New York, at the end of 2008.
Stephen Westfall’s show at the American Academy will be his most completely integrated exhibition of paintings on canvas, wall paintings,, and works on paper to date. Along with three large scale wall paintings, Westfall is presenting four paintings on canvas, which were completed during the first half of his stay in Rome, and two gouaches.
The interspersing of scale and surface between the formats is a direct response to the flow of space in the gallery—in such a way that the resonance between the images and the historical environment of Rome will also be felt as a concrete condition of the specific architectural features of the site.
Westfall’s color and patterns tend to project forward into space as much as they open up to illusionist pictorial depths. The two rooms of the AAR Gallery will be felt as salons for the contemplation of joyful and historically resonant geometries and optical spatial dynamics. After the Friday 12 March opening, the exhibition can be visited by appointment only. For that, call Giulia Barra at 06/5846459.
AAR Arts and Humanities intern Diana Mellon contributed to this report; special thanks to Luca Nostri and (for all photos below) Rachele Biagini