The work of Niele Toroni is currently the subject of a pair of shows this month, with exhibitions at the Swiss Institute through September 6 and at Marian Goodman Gallery through July 30. The Swiss-born Toroni is known for his reductive, repetitive paintings, emphasizing a conceptual approach which he executes with impressive regularity. According to some, the artist repeats his painting techniques to free his work from the formulaic politics of representation, and divorce art from authorship. Toroni creates site-specific and serial paintings, placing brushstrokes at regular intervals with a 50cm paintbrush, 30cm apart on a variety of surfaces including canvas, newspaper, and fabric. Toroni began employing this method during a 1967 performance in Paris.
Niele Toroni, Imprints of a no. 50 brush repeated at regular intervals of 30 cm (2015). Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery
The exhibition at Marian Goodman focuses on work produced by the artist since the late eighties, while the Swiss Institute presents the first solo survey of Toroni’s career in a New York museum, a wider, more exhaustive selection that also contains a number of site-specific paintings produced specifically for this exhibition, seen as direct interventions onto the walls and already-existing structures of the building. The variety of surfaces, and the unexpected places onto which Toroni has applied his signature brushstroke, especially scattered at random throughout the gallery, suggests the sort of charm and appeal of an obsessive prank.
Niele Toroni, Imprints of a no. 50 brush repeated at regular intervals of 30 cm, via Art Observed
In the Third Floor Gallery of Marian Goodman, a smaller, more focused exhibition of the artist’s work is presented. A series of site-specific works can be seen, painted directly onto the walls of this gallery, much akin to the work at the Swiss Institute. Three new works on canvas are also presented, as well as a collection of works painted from 1989-1991 on paper and newspaper. As is stated in the Marian Goodman press release, Toroni’s work seeks to “activate space and free painting” through incessant emphasis on the color, texture, and material tools of painting.
Over the years, Toroni’s dedication to conceptualism has remained steadfast, and the volume of work created in such uniform style is impressive in its own right. Throughout both exhibitions, Toroni subtly questions the position of the artist, while suggesting the potential for an eternity spent on the threshold of production. Though initially appealing at a visual level, this work’s most profound resonance takes place at the level of the politics of art. Toroni speaks to the concepts of multitude, recommencement, and representation, and both exhibitions of Toroni’s work emphasize the human touch, the application of pigment to paper, and the approach to art-making as spiritual practice. As the description of the show on the Swiss Institute’s website reads, “Toroni’s work repeats itself in an eternal recommencement. Thus what may appear as a monolithic entity is actually a multitude of infinite variations.” Both shows successfully demonstrate this importance of looking again and again in order to see, revealing the impressive capacity of the artist’s work to focus attention with such minimal gesture.
— A. Corrigan