Gregg Carbo's conceptual works cast a magical spell. 

Alchemy by Art

Gregg Carbo
"Sum Work"
Reynolds Gallery
Through Oct. 9

Paint is a tool of treason. It is seditious, revolting at times against the status quo; it is illusory in that it misrepresents or manipulates other realities; it is antithetical, contrasting and confusing authenticity with appearance; and it is utterly agnostic, having no allegiance but the application's need. For these features and others, it is a favorite tool of the artist.

Gregg Carbo analyzes paint as subject matter, along with several other mechanisms of applied correspondence, in his current exhibition of sculpture at Reynolds Gallery. Carbo, in true empirical method, has created the most elegantly wicked object imaginable from dipping constructed wooden sticks into a container of white acrylic paint to see what happens. This he has done every Thursday for 80 weeks, observing as the accumulation of paint takes on its own corporeal properties. What was born of this process is "One Without Two With," a percolating, tapered form that has responded with continence to the contest between gravity and dehydration. Below, hanging like arthritic stalactites or tentacles, is a circle of petrified drips. In another work, Carbo amputates this lower feature, halves it, and displays it under Plexiglas as one would a freakish natural growth of compelling design.

Another work, "Elements," which also involves paint as subject, has four cans of premixed paint precariously displayed on a narrow ledge. The colors are labeled with obscured names: earth, fire, water and wind. On their lids are the list of pigments for each mixing formula, making creation in the biblical sense a simple matter of natural selection at the paint store rather than forcing a lengthy wait at the evolutionary level. As smart as the piece is, it does not quite achieve the subtle intelligence of the other work in the show, but points to the imperative of conceptual art — to give pause, to perplex.

The other works in the show involve the same quiet palette of natural wood, white and charcoal that one associates with Carbo's restrained aesthetic. These are Braille-inspired pieces that develop mathematical logic to near obsession — to the great benefit of the viewer. Organized in sets that are identified by their numerology, Carbo articulates some of the poetic options suggested in systems. "Blind Spot" organizes Braille number signs in a hierarchical graph format of cast plaster that dissolves into an enigmatic plan of small oak squares recalling a Scrabble game in progress. Here, as in "One Without Two With," a gravitational pull seems to affect the piece.

There is magic to be found in these works as well as logic, especially in "Half Seen Rarely Heard" and "Tres Patho" — magic here being the quality in a thing that releases a discrete hatch in the top of one's head to let a sparkling question mark out. These acute works are systematic like their gallery mates, but they are endowed with eccentric action that requires patience, they delight through self awareness. You are in a beautiful, serious gallery looking at a meandering plastic tube that has a tiny drop of water captured inside — a minute testimony to a well-known fact: humidity is extant. You wait for this drop of water to move, and sure enough, eventually, suddenly, a fan whirs overhead from an elaborately constructed scaffold, stimulating the drop to move further down the tube. Proof of further humid drama is evident in the canvases that serve as the transformation receptacles for each drop. This is a special form of spell. However, I'm unclear on whether the magic is in the piece, or in the nature of humans when they hold still long enough to be captive to the small miracle of

Latest in Miscellany


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Connect with Style Weekly

Most Popular Stories

  • Palms on the Potomac

    Palms on the Potomac

    Our day trip series heads to charming Colonial Beach, a relaxed small town featuring the second-longest beach in Virginia.
    • Sep 7, 2021
  • Co-working Co-conspirators

    Co-working Co-conspirators

    Richmond’s first Black- and queer-owned co-working space is open for business.
    • Aug 31, 2021
  • Fall Arts Preview

    Fall Arts Preview

    • Aug 31, 2021
  • Deciding Factors

    Deciding Factors

    A close governor’s race between two wealthy Virginia businessmen could set the tone for broader national elections, but this time it’s not business as usual.
    • Aug 24, 2021
  • More »

Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation