BEN LA ROCCO Fugue State

Janet Kurnatowski Gallery | March 22 – April 21, 2013

Ben La Rocco, “Eleven,” 2013. Oil and graphite on panel, 11 x 85”. Courtesy of Janet Kurnatowski Gallery and Ben La Rocco.
Ben La Rocco, “Eleven,” 2013. Oil and graphite on panel, 11 x 85”. Courtesy of Janet Kurnatowski Gallery and Ben La Rocco.

Like his toddler son, Ben La Rocco spends a lot of time trying to understand how things fit together. In the case of the father, it’s not stacking cups, but bigger things, like the cosmos, or form and color. His recent show is the manifestation of this struggle. The conceptually rigorous (and very tightly edited) works that comprise the exhibition are the culmination of La Rocco’s interests in cosmic matters such as the space-time continuum, concrete geometric relationships, and a hard-earned, direct approach to painting.

“Eleven” (2013) is the centerpiece of the show, embodying many of the thematic investigations that La Rocco has undertaken. At 11 by 85 inches, it represents a continuum on many levels. Anchored on one end by a circular pattern (inspired by a manhole cover) and on the other by a subtle red shadow of a circle, the center contains sets of 11 lines arranged along a theoretical horizon, as well as two sets of eleven concave forms in progressive hue from white to blue. In the center is a geometric diagram of a circle within a square. Celestial references combine with the quotidian to intriguing effect. The painting is evocative of a moon chart, a page from a Leonardo da Vinci sketchbook, a collection of primitive symbols, and the progression of a day from blue sunny skies to grey shadow, all at once.

Its precursor, “Generating the Zodiac” (2013), also combines many of the same elements—arrays of lines, circles and concave forms, geometric diagrams, and a roughly painted, earth-like orb. The sphere weighs down one end of the long rectangle and is somehow perfectly counterbalanced by a small black circle, from which thinly drawn lines emanate to intersect with other lines marked by zodiac signs.

Another long horizontal painting, “Parvonis” (2013), investigates the same circle within a square relationship, but on an extreme macro level. The horizontal format juxtaposes two seemingly opposite forms-—faint washes of bright cadmium yellow in concentric circles and a group of heavily textured black balls. The relationship appears enigmatic but actually contains both the circle within a square association and the circular pattern of the manhole cover, albeit at very, very close range. It’s an oddly joyous painting that seems to be lifting off the wall.

 “My/The Yellow World” (2013) is an intense, thickly painted yellow orb that hovers over its wood board ground, with just a trace of charcoal shadow underneath, like the inverse of the sun’s aura. It harkens back to some of La Rocco’s earlier, more organic, and painterly work, yet connects thematically and visually to the other paintings in the show. Again, it’s another perspective on the universe.

The phrase “fugue state” refers to an incident in which a person forgets his identity and origins. This individual may travel away from his customary surroundings in order to escape or assume a new identity, or both. It’s as if La Rocco too has been steadily searching through a range of visual symbols, testing relationships and regarding the cosmos from varying perspectives, trying to understand the origins of his painterly identity. The answers have been wrestled from his subconscious and are now visible and palpable in the alternately subtle and gritty application of paint to board. 

205 Norman Ave. // Brooklyn, NY


Corina Larkin


MAY 2013

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