Andrew Masullo


Priola and Masullo at Anglim

Kenneth Baker

Saturday, September 20, 2023

Priola and Masullo at Anglim: J. John Priola shows a new series of black-and-white pictures at Gallery Paule Anglim that continue his survey of undernoticed details of domestic architecture. This time he has turned his attention to vent grates in house foundations and the "weep holes" in retaining walls that permit drainage.

As in "Hillhurst Avenue" (2007), he offers these tiny architectural epiphanies, in a plainspoken manner, in big prints with wall, aperture, sidewalk and perhaps a fringe of vegetation forming a nearly depthless, nearly abstract pattern.

A series of postcard-size prints examines single weeds obtruding, one or two at a time, between wall and sidewalk.

Priola poises these images on the border between documentary and conceptual art. They seem to equate the insufficient attention people give to details of the world and the insufficient attention they give to photographs. Such an equation would risk insulting the viewer, did Priola not effect it so discreetly that it too may pass unnoticed.

Priola also quietly revives what Vancouver, British Columbia, photographer Roy Arden calls "the romance of the index" - the excitement of believing, in the Photoshop age, that the phenomenon before the lens left its own photo-chemical imprint.

Small works by San Francisco painter Andrew Masullo - the only kind he makes - keep surprisingly good company with Priola's photographs. Perhaps the modesty of Masullo's pictures explains this, perhaps their interest in the distinctness of each moment of observation does.

Without making any big claims for themselves, each of Masullo's abstract paintings seems to want to be the sort of unique particle of reality that Priola singles out with his camera.

The piece "4506" (2005-06) might suggest clouds tattering to reveal bits of bright sky, except that the clouds are a sap green and the background colors pink, blue, red and yellow.

It looks like nothing else in his show. Masullo appears less interested in the power of any individual picture than in the jump in energy that occurs as his style, even his sensibility, seems to change from one painting to the next. Only Thomas Nozkowski, a slightly older contemporary, comes to mind as Masullo's peer in this regard.

Andrew Masullo at Joan T. Washburn - New York

Art in America

May 2003

by Michael Duncan

Insouciant yet earnest, Andrew Masullo's seriously witty new paintings combine the intellectual rigor of geometric abstraction with the crisp visual hooks of graphic art. Most of the works contrast curvaceous biomorphic shapes with more straight-lined, regular forms, playing subtle games with figure-ground relationships and hints of patterns. The oval-shaped 3882 (2001-02), for example, features an emblemlike flower whose 10 red petals are bisected by stripes of white that bleed into the painting's white background.

Dominated by bright primary colors, the paintings have the upbeat, edible-looking appeal associated with hard candy or Fisher-Price toys. The attention to odd geometric combinations and retro graphics evokes the artist's playfully collaged assemblages of the early '90s. Some of the paintings incorporate forms seemingly borrowed from the charts and diagrams of old-fashioned economics textbooks. In 4003 (2002), a central red oval sprouts eight spider-leg vectors with arrow-shaped ends, as if to indicate the diverging directions of unidentified outflows. 3792 (2000-02) is bisected by a zigzag line that might represent some radical growth index or fluctuating voter response. As in the works of Lari Pittman, sharp-edged rendering helps to organize the compositions and project a user-friendly, cartoonish charm.

The nubby, heavily worked surfaces and determined paint application make the compositions seem stubbornly resolved--like streamlined Rorschach blots inviting narrative interpretations and psychological speculation. The orange and white, mirror-image, horizontal shapes in 3851 (2001-02), for example, look poised for erotic coupling. The interlocking red and white jigsaw shapes of the diagonally hung 3852 (2001-02) suggest the result of some kind of schizoid fragmentation.

With their generally modest scale (ranging from 8 by 10 to 30 by 24 inches) and deliberate execution, Masullo's works could be the outcome of discreet scientific experiments performed on unsuspecting lumps and blobs. If so, his lab is dedicated to the tradition of comic abstract painting that includes artists such as Miro, Klee, Arp, Calder, Paul Feeley, Myron Stout, Frederick Hammersley and Thomas Nozkowski. Fine company indeed.

Andrew Masullo at Andre Emmerich - New York

Art in America

December 1994

by Ken Johnson

Once a scavenger who appropriated remnants of obsolete popular culture into a motley, autobiographical archive, Andrew Masullo now paints abstractions. However, his cheerfully diminutive pictures are numbered according to the same system by which he catalogued his earlier collages, assemblages and found objects, and they are based on elements of outmoded Modernist styles. The paintings may thus be seen as continuing Masullo's endeavor to poetically reconnect to neglected and abandoned places in the past.

Masullo's paintings are marked by engagingly comic and child-like qualities. Rarely exceeding 12 inches in height or width, each is a tightly composed, emblematic design rendered in bright, enamel-like, confectionery hues. Thickly layered, sometimes crustily impastoed paint suggests that each work results from much painterly trial and error. Despite a relatively limited vocabulary of abstract elements - including stripes, dots, frames within frames, polygons and star@ bursts - Masullo seems capable of finding endless pictorial variations. The lo-bye-inch painting titled consists of nine differently sized ovals in various pastel colors on an olive-green field. Heraldic symmetry characterizes a square painting made up of boldly colored pie sections that radiate from the exact center, surrounded by an ornamental, curvilinear border. In 3034, a single red-and-white-striped, irregularly bent conduitlike object seems to wed Pop and Surrealism, while in 3023 straight bands of color entering from the edges seem configured on the basis of rationalistic, Bauhausian theory. Most of the paintings in the show were hung salon-style on one wall sensible arrangement, since the pieces work best when seen collectively, as a kind of idiosyncratic extended family.

Masullo's paintings sometimes evoke Neo Geo's critical simulation of modernist style, but without the theoretical portentousness that one associates with the works of, say, Peter Halley. instead, Masullo's approach is sweetly personal and cleverly playful, as he charms us with his visual wit. But there is an obliquely expressive side to the work, too, issuing from its nostalgic evocation of modernist design styles that were still vital during Masullo's childhood in the '50s and early '60s. These are styles associated with that optimistic era when modernism seemed capable of redesigning life on earth. Given the failure of such utopian dreams, there's a retrospective pathos underlying the jaunty surface of Masullo's paintings, as if Masullo mourns the loss of his and our better future.