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Review: Power Through Color

Serena Bocchino. Extravagant. 2018. Oil, enamel, and gold leaf on canvas. 65" x 55".

Summer is the muse of Power Through Color a two-person exhibition featuring new paintings by Serena Bocchino and Nola Zirin, on view at the 
J. Cacciola • Gallery W located in Bernardsville, New Jersey. For over 25 years both Bocchino and Zirin have explored different trajectories within the genre of abstract painting. Power Through Color marks the first time that both artists have shown their work together.

The paintings on view in this exhibition reflect both artists’ interest in the legacy of New York City, when it was the center of American cultural identity and presented an even mix of fine art, performance, poetry, jazz and theater. While Bocchino and Zirin often suggest the figure, they both reference back to the era of the jazz by utilizing color and motifs that create an atmosphere suggesting musical notes, deep rhythmic sounds and naturalism.

Black and Blue // Yellow (2017) by Nola Zirin appears inside the gallery’s main entrance and opens the exhibition with a spectrum of yellow and blue hues that gradually appear through dense layers of black paint. A collection of shapes are complemented by gestural and geometric lines, functioning as shadows of absent objects. Zirin’s sweeping renderings begin to trace the industrial tread of vehicular traffic.

The red, white and black layers of Interior (2016) reveals the diagonal-patterned tread seen on tires. The three colors also intersect, creating a sense of suspended, three-dimensional space. This motif is echoed in two smaller works titled Zig Zag and One Way Home, both from 2017. Construction (2018) is a large-scale piece that shows a collection of sharp arrows and angles of machine-made traction. In other paintings such as Glass Ceiling (2016), Blue Eclipse (2017) and Sky Hook (2018) Zirin’s bold colors take the viewer into pure atmosphere.

While Zirin’s paintings appeal strongly to geometric complexity, Bocchino’s are more spontaneous and free-flowing. Spring Up and Extravagant from 2018 are Monet-like, and portray layers of blues, purples and greens that are shaped by light blue lines of paint. However Bocchino does not render a response to naturalism. Instead the artist utilizes unpredictable, erratic lines that transform the idea of abstract painting into a mood of spontaneity.

Shades of red, orange and yellow weave together in New Song (2018) and Electric Gold. (2018) Each of these paintings reference the artist’s earlier wire sculpture titled Slam (2016), a suspended network of wires that coil vertically through space while framing small fragments of resin. By implying form and movement with a random, gestural line Bocchino’s paintings resonate.

Throughout this selection of 35 paintings, Zirin and Bocchino build up and fill each canvas. When seen together, these compositions begin to feel like a type of regionalism since they blend into the immediate exterior landscape, making Power Through Color a unique, site-specific exhibition. American abstract paintings initially began as a rejection of form. Artists were left to extract color from their literal, object-infused surroundings. Since then, the genre has moved forward, away from an overall reclusive, postwar ideal and toward a subject that is more engaging.

Jill Conner, New York