East City Art Reviews: Jason Gubbiotti Things Are As They Seem

By Jan Aucker on March 18, 2019
Lion’s Club, 2016 and 2018, acrylic on linen, 34 1/2 x 29 1/2 inches. Photo courtesy of Civilian Art Projects.

Visual indeterminacy is a perceptual phenomenon that occurs when a viewer is presented with a seemingly meaningful visual stimulus that denies easy or immediate identification. [1] According to artist Jason Gubbiotti, his work tells the audience that everything is really there, while simultaneously encouraging a doubting of that perception.  It can communicate different types of narratives, each mark having a personality that continues to grow and develop.  In his latest show presented by Civilian Art Projects, the artist wants to create that tension and force continuous investigation.

Gubbiotti, a former Washingtonian, now based outside of Paris, received a BFA from Corcoran College of Art and Design in 1998.  The Fusebox Gallery selected him for their program, and was the artist in their inaugural exhibition. His artworks have always contained many interesting surfaces.  They are not as simple as they seem and require careful inspection to appreciate the amount of work that goes into his paintings.  He has continued this trajectory, fine tuning his architectural elements and using different layers from different angles.  With the current show in addition to his paintings, he has included three-dimensional objects and thirty smaller drawings.

Installation View. Photo courtesy of Civilian Art Projects

The artist has always been interested in production; this is evident in the building process he uses to create his art. He constructs his works, starting with the physical wood supports.  Each one is unique.  Some are flat, bending, thin, or bulky containing flanged edges or unique shapes.  These are the foundation that sets the tenor for his creative process.  His painting surfaces range from smooth wood panels to wrapped cotton, linen or acrylic canvas. Each provides a distinctive surface for creating textures and layering his precise brushwork.

Bottom Breather, 2018, acrylic on wood panel, 15 x 23 1/2 inches. Photo courtesy of Civilian Art Projects.

Gubbioti’s technique is evident with a number of paintings, particularly the contrasting yet similar styles of Bottom Breather and How to Sleep.  In the former, painted directly on the wood support, layered concentric figures of green and cerulean blue play off each other forming new shapes with their outlines. On the right side, the artist has cut out a small rectangular notch in the frame overlaying it with a piece of plywood that leads into one of the forms. Some of the silhouettes flow over the edge of the frame or extend past it.  With How to Sleep the shapes are floating slightly off center on a canvas. The precise concentric figures begin in shades of yellow but evolve to a group of chaotic multicolor thin lined heptagons. In both works, you can see the depth of each form, which allows the viewer to inspect and discover more with each examination.

How to Sleep, 2017 – 2018, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 28 inches. Photo courtesy of Civilian Art Projects.

Included in the show, are a group of new three-dimensional objects.  These sculptures, were primarily built from the artist’s collection of materials used for his paintings; however, providing some interesting additions.  With Subspace, the familiar painted geometric shapes are evident with meticulous detail.  The unusually shaped support with a rectangular cut out and a slanted bottom, leans against the wall like it is going to slide onto the floor.  The back of the work is finished in a bright orange felt.  According to Gubbiotti, his sculpture simultaneously occupies the wall and the floor.

Subspace, 2018 – 2019, acrylic and felt on wood, 29 1/2 x 40 1/2 x 8 inches Photo courtesy of Civilian Art Projects.

CROP, another sculpture in the show, looks like a section from an existing painting. Each side reveals something different.  A small canvas painted with concentric figures wraps around two sides of a corner. Exposed on the other side are scraps of wood that were from Subspace.  According to the artist, the intent is that the viewer should explore the work to ensure everything seen is really there, while simultaneously creating ambiguity that demands repeat inspection.

CROP, 2018 – 2019, acrylic on canvas, 12 1/4 x 9 x 6 inches. Photo courtesy of Civilian Art Projects.

For over 10 years, Gubbiotti’s incorporation of ink has allowed him to create his crisp edges and angular shapes.  With “Drawing Book,” the artist generated thirty small drawings from September 27, 2017 to April 19, 2018.  For the project, he used a pad of drawing paper, completed a drawing on each sheet, and is exhibiting them in chronological order.  From the start, he decided not to discard anything.  Each drawing is numbered, individually titled, and dated to the exact day it was made. He focused on the composition for each one, as is evident with From Russia with Love.  As you observe the work from a distance, it looks like an architectural floorplan or carefully designed pattern. Upon closer examination, you can observe the tiny ink forms meticulously drawn by hand, ranging from frenzied to methodical.

From Russia with Love, 2017 – 2018, pen on paper, 11 3/4 x 16 inches. Photo courtesy of Civilian Art Projects.
Drawing Book – 30 drawings, September 27th. 2017 to April 19th 2018, pen on paper. Photo Courtesy of Civilian Art Projects.

Gubbiotti’s career has been one of experimentation and exploration.  He continues to push the boundaries in terms of abstraction and in his approach to form and composition. His introduction of three-dimensional objects is a logical progression, incorporating his expressionistic qualities of color and visceral components that invite close examination. He is a master of his art, engaging the audience and provoking an emotional response of uncertainty to their perception.  As ongoing interactions between the viewer and the artist continue, Gubbiotti investigates new methods for creating his work as well as developing ways to express his concern for simultaneous transparency and obfuscation in it.

Things Are As They Seem is on view through March 23, 2019 presented by Civilian Art Projects at Studio 1469, 1469R Harvard St NW Rear, Washington, DC). For more information, visit Civilian’s  website www.civilianartprojects.com.

Virtual Artist Talk with Jason Gubbiotti and Kimberly Gladfelter Graham to be held at Studio 1469 on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at 2:00 PM.

[1] Robert Pepperell, Seeing without objects: Visual indeterminacy and art. Leonardo (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006) Vol. 39 p.394-400.

Banner image: The Science of Swearing, 2018 – 2019, acrylic, wood and griptape, 33 1/2 x 6 3/4 x 3 1/2 inches. Photo courtesy of Civilian Art Projects.