Dominic Terlizzi at Vox Populi

Through Jan 26

By Jacob Feige

Among the four strong solo exhibitions concurrently installed at Vox Populi is a series of thirteen mosaic paintings by Baltimore artist Dominic Terlizzi. For this exhibition, called Aver Vero (‘announcing truth,’ roughly), Terlizzi has made vigorous and bold abstractions whose geometry is like Constructivism made to the specifications of an internet-era ultra-maximalist. It’s almost regrettable to explain another basic element of this work, for fear of inspiring accusations of gimmickry: these paintings are mostly made with painted, acrylic-cast reproductions of carbohydrate-rich snack foods. The abstraction in this work is a unique, dizzying structure built around the forms of the objects themselves. In spite of that and because of it the work becomes a complex system, not a ploy to be noticed through pretzel logic (there, I said it) in a crowded field of abstract painters.


The main strength of these paintings, which are all small-to-medium scale and fairly constant in approach, is color. Gradations over a series of tiles unfold as surprising shifts in hue and value: black to olive to yellow to orange. In Third Things, 2013, grays transition delicately into dull blues and pinks as hexagonal crackers give way to triangle-cut tortilla chips. The mosaic structure of the work ensures that there is no background at all, with smaller and smaller bits of pattern and color filling in between more prominent forms. There are so many arrays of color within each painting that one could scrutinize a piece each day for a month and still notice new ones.


The formal intricacy of Terlizzi’s paintings leads me to resist interpreting the vivid crackers and chips as anything more than abstract elements. Sure, metaphors and anecdotes may abound, but then there is a history of abstraction as a receptacle for whatever ideas artists and viewers may throw at it, relevant or not. A cracker may be a symbol of a Christian sacrament, just a cracker, or a perforated square. It is simply the latter in these paintings. Still, there is a plain, folksy charm to the recognizable building blocks in this work, which is made stranger when one considers the trouble that Terlizzi must have taken to meticulously cast each element. Why bother, when similar paintings could be made on a two-dimensional surface? There is no clear answer to the question, but I am glad that Terlizzi has taken his more difficult, baffling approach.


Jacob Feige is an artist and Assistant Professor of Art at the Richard Stockton College of NJ. His work has recently been seen in Jacob Feige: Paintings 2008-2013 at the College Gallery, Stockton College and A city(ies) that walked at Tiger Strikes Asteroid and Fjord in Philadelphia.