"As I walked in, I couldn't help but notice massive spherical shapes dominating the wall, and the gallery overall, so it seemed. Titled "The City - New York" from the series "The Wondering Stars", four large paintings form one big wall-size square, a collage of spheres which engulfs the viewer, mesmerizes him and bewitches with its rigid conceptual sensuality of form. "The 2014 international Winter Exhibit" in Caelum Gallery in Chelsea - represented this time, much more then just the art show, it stood for the contemporary movement and concept in the New York Art Scene of the 2013 overall. It became a summary of the 2013 and its top art trends: the ideas, the concepts, the elements, the vision of the year - were all here.
Somehow, I was not a bit surprised to see the so called "renaissance man" - Igor Kalinauskas (an European artist, author of "The City - New York" from the series "The Wondering Stars" displayed in the show), turn to "tondo" art shapes in his painting. These round, circular shapes known to art critics as "tondo" (an Italian word for "round"), have their deep historical roots. It was the most common shape in use by the Renaissance masters, specially when depicting divinity and the sacred. Thus, the parallel between the the earlier works by Kalinauskas, such as "The Last Supper" installation, and the new tondo paintings is remarkable. It is a natural continuation of the sacred theme, the divine and the worshiped. Yet now, Kalinauskas translated the objects into paint, the installation into the basic abstract shapes, that are both: rich in historical value and background, and yet absolutely modern in context.
One may argue, that the hight of the contemporary "tondo movement" took place in early sixties and seventies, with works by such artists as Wojciech Fangor and his non-tantric disc-like paintings. This theme was later continued in a series of works by Lea Lenhart. While some artists such as Robert Schaberl, Hans Herbert Hartwieg, also Gary Lang and Tracy Melton still continue to work in the Tondo movement today.
Yet I do not see Igor Kalinauskas' work as the remains of the 60s and 70s movement, that some how survived or is being continued up until now. On contrary, I see it as a totally new wave of Tondo, which underwent the renaissance of its own principal ideals and is now a thriving, totally new, post modern form of expression.
Just recently in 2013, this divinely inspired circular shape was glorified in the new New York exhibit, at the "Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts". This incredible tribute to the modern renaissance of the eternal Tondo Movement, was carefully selected and paced together by the curators Christian Vassallo and Matthew Fisher. And what strikes the viewer, are not just the sensual eternal round shapes, but the young age of their creators. No, it's not the residue of the 60s and 70s anymore. It's a brand new movement in contemporary art, led by the young artists such as: Jim Houser, John Phillips, Andrew Masullo, Francis Holstrom and Luis Cameron, to name a few. Their painting and graphics form the art of pure pleasure.
I also can draw a clear parallel between Kalinauskas' affinity for the Man and the subjective being, and the circular shape as a concept. Once again, we have to turn to history. While the round shape was used for divine depiction during Renaissance, later, it became a staple form used for the civic portraiture. These shapes, titled "Wondering Stars" combine two primordial concepts - that of the divine and that of the subjective. They are on their own right, nothing else but the "divine portraits" in the contemporary context and society.
It is no secret, that the circular format is truly innate and pleasing. It seduces the viewer with its sensuality of form and pleases the eye with its eternal planetary shape, that is subsequently - identical to the shape of the human eye, its iris and lens. Our eye does not react in the same way to the shape on a square or a rectangle, not physically, not mentally and not psychologically. It is the circle alone, that is the most sensual of shapes. Feminine in its form and nature, the Tondo seemingly takes over the viewer.
A yet, Igor Kalinauskas took the Tondo form even further. He toys with the idea of the feminine within the masculine, the circle within the square. It is a simple and elegant concept, that represents philosophical ideals of the "ing and yang", the everything and the nothing, the eternity in one instant. The universe overall and the universe within each man. These ever fluid eternal tondo shapes locked within a stable square - are nothing more, then the contemporary "every man" portraits. These are the two aspects, two shapes that are present in each individual, in his psyche, in his ming and in his body, be it a woman or a man - we all posses the masculine and the feminine within us. And these elements can wether fight or harmoniously coexist, their interaction defines our individual character, look, form, color, shape, etc. Much like classical civic portraits, they too, show our differences, imperfections, beauty, wrinkles, thin lip or double chin.
With an anticipation of a child on a Christmas Eve, I look forward to new works by Kalinauskas. I eagerly await new implementations of the Tondo, perhaps further translating them into a three dimensional shapes, and elements of contemporary sculptural design and installation. As it was done by numerous contemporary young artist: Nami Yomamoto in her tondo installation of the "Primordial Soup" (2005), refine and elegant, it can yet be easily taken even further and transferred into larger scale, and even contemporary design forms; or work by Derick Melander, a striking tondo sculptures not of bronze, plaster, clay or wood - but of folded clothing, this questions the issue of consumerism in modern society, global mobility, idealism, identity and affluence; or perhaps even mesmerizing yet kitschy-looking painting by a New Yorker B. Wurtz, painted immediately on the back of the aluminum pans and displayed on the wall almost, as if a frisby ad or new line of car hubcaps. Cheesy-looking or kitschy as they may seem, they too mesmerize the viewer with their bewitching steady radiance.
Kalinauskas already flirted with an idea of light and space installation, by adding the element of light to the tondo shape. These cosmic-like, primordial spheres came even more alive with an addition of light. I look forward to new dimensions, materials and concepts from this, truly, one of a kind artist.
With confidence I can declare that New York of 2013 - was a year of contemporary Tondo Movement in art. Some may call it a "come back of the 70's concept", while I say - it is a much needed and awaited breath of fresh air in the cities art scene. It began with the a contemporary tondo exhibit in the "Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts" and it was concluded with the winter exhibit of Igor Kalinauskas in the Caelum Galley in Chelea."
Christina Katrakis MFA (PhD), contemporary international art critic and curator, art historian,
professor of Fine Arts and Art History, president of the International Academy of Arts,
UN ambassador of good will in the field of Culture, USA.