Dan Gluibizzi: A Coupled Search at Russo Lee Gallery

Review

Dan Gluibizzi: A Coupled Search at Russo Lee Gallery

By Sebastian Zinn November 6, 2019

A nude figure rendered in an ochre ombré wash points skyward, while another depicted in lavender and pear-green rests their weight on their left hip, an undergarment suspended just below their knees. From a distance, Dan Gluibizzi’s watercolors depict colorful portraits against monochrome or soft, variegated grounds. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the figures are engaged in a tender exchange of banal, intimate, and sexually explicit gestures. Gluibizzi’s recent exhibition at Russo Lee Gallery, A Coupled Search, featured stylistically distinct watercolors and sculptures, including a new series of large-scale watercolors depicting silhouetted headshots of unidentified subjects arranged in a grid. Rendered in a flat wash and sparing hard edges, these paintings obscure the identities of the subjects they represent. One of his formal strategies—rendering all the human subjects in his paintings in a colorful wash with variations in color and intensity—makes it difficult to discern skin color (and, in such, signifiers of gender or race). By omitting his subjects’ names, Gluibizzi leaves their specificity up to one of the essential functions of portraiture: the skill of the artist at capturing a likeness—an individual’s physiognomy, gaze, and way of holding oneself. Their differences are accentuated by their proximity to so many other subjects.

Dan Gluibizzi. 22 couples kissing, 2019; watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil on paper; 50 x 42 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Russo Lee Gallery, Portland, OR.

The ethics of Gluibizzi’s approach are doubtlessly convoluted. In much of his work, he sources pornographic images from amateur blogs on Tumblr as raw material, drawing on both the specificity and the anonymity of his subjects within a constant feed of interchangeable images. He favors content self-produced by individuals who are motivated to share their likeness by the thrill of exhibitionism rather than profit, all of whom display a curiosity in knowing how they, their bodies, and their actions would be regarded by another person. The subjects in Gluibizzi’s paintings often meet the viewer’s gaze, positioning onlookers as both voyeur and a subject of scrutiny. Throughout these works, nude figures and figures performing sex acts appear next to, or interact with, fully clothed figures engaged in routine, non-sexual activities. In depicting nudity and sexual behavior as ambient rather than explicit, Gluibizzi’s paintings suggest the continuity between gestures and actions that are socially deemed taboo and private and those that are understood as being publicly acceptable.

Very few of the figures touch one another, reflecting the atomization of individuals living in the digital age. The instances in which people actually embrace—as in 22 couples kissing (2019)—are more precious by comparison, reflecting how rare mutual expressions of attraction and affection can be. Gluibizzi’s body of work shows how intercourse with other human beings—whether verbal, sexual, physical, or mediated by a computer screen—leaves a residue that lingers and informs their chosen modes of behavior. His work illustrates how received modes of self-expression, like those we view in art, bleed into and inform our own bodily languages.

Dan Gluibizzi: A Couple Search was on view at Russo Lee Gallery in Portland, OR through September 28, 2019.

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