Painting Is Loaded

Painting Is Loaded

Todd Arsenault tackles the collision of analog and digital in images of natural phenomenon

One of the more engaging shows that has opened this month is the work of Todd Arsenault at Massimo Audiello, although some of the ideas surrounding the paintings are more powerful than the paintings themselves.

The ideas are very big and there is a certain charm to the combination of swanky thinking and almost homespun easel painting, Arsenault has tackled no less than “the collision of the analog and the digital” in terms of vision, thinking, time, and painting. Information overload and the fracturing of time are of great interest to artists. The very notion of the flexibility of time has the mathematical and physical science minds in a dither. Why shouldn’t painters, whose business is essentially stopping time, get in on the excitement?

This is one of the few instances in recent memory when the coupling of science and painting actually has something to do with the nature of painting itself. This show bears witness to the intensity with which artists embrace the implications of the binary era. The paintings are involved with the observation of meteorological and seismic events in the light of digital time.

Arsenault is a bit of a tornado chaser––which is not to say a disaster ghoul, but rather someone deeply fascinated with notions of falling apart and coming together, phenomenology, and numbers. Seen in choppy brushstroke sized bits––like elongated pixels–– big events set in nature occur. They are depicted as happening either in an instant or over a prolonged period of time. In either case the action is caught at a particular moment of change.

The palette is rather art studio “natural” or a slightly pale version thereof. The traditional color and generally modest scale lend humor, innocence, and a kind of “just another day on earth” mood to otherwise extraordinary events. A wild dust devil or cyclone dances on a mesa. Fragments of matter coalesce in a gully, busy making a vacation house. One painting seems to depict such an event at night and apparently in the snow. A video piece illustrates the same thinking but comes off as a screen saver. The touch––that is the method––in the paintings is what makes the combination of elements work and one is compelled to expect the best for the future of Arsenault’s work.