Freedom, Paintings 28 x 35.5

“Freedom” Personified: The Paintings of Nélida Diaz de D’Amato

In the series of paintings that she titles “The Drama of Being Free,” Latin American artist Nélida Diaz de D’Amato takes inspiration from the writings of the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling. But rather than slavishly following Schelling’s themes, she demonstrates the principle of freedom in art by virtue of her creative interpretation. “I think art is the culminating point of Schelling’s philosophy,” she explains in an artist’s statement. “It is the highest manifestation of the absolute. Between human nature and art lies a subconscious creative force. I take art as an active principle, capable of engendering unconscious spiritual life. Human beings strive for freedom and it is in esthetic activity where unity occurs.” Like Schelling’s eclectic theories, de D’Amato’s style ranges over a wide gamut of expression. In a painting she calls “Identity,” which is primarily composed in tones of pale blue and gray, two angular figures that look carved out of stone pose as though for a formal portrait in a photographer’s studio. Ironically, as much as they obviously wish to project an individual persona, their faces are featureless. By contrast, in de D’Amato’s “Human Nature,” three almost ghostly white figures emerge from a luminous blue ground, enacting what appears to be a triangular drama in a manner as fluidly ethereal as rain running down a windowpane. Then there is “Ideal,” in which de D’Amato turns up the chromatic frequency in a more complex and detailed image of a humble lady and her dog, both seen outside their respective abodes –– the canine’s little A-frame kennel, and the woman’s brightly-lit and immaculate home. Here, de D’Amato emerges as an especially vibrant colorist in the harmonies she achieves with brilliant yellow and orange hues set against purples, violets and blues in her evocation of this optimistic woman’s orderly domestic realm. Yet, notice those glowing yellow liquidic areas on the neat cement walkway: Are they puddles left by the dog that appears to be slinking somewhat sheepishly away in the direction of its little house? And if so, do they slightly sully the woman’s notion of the ideal? And also look closely at the folds in this mild, dowdy lady’s bright orange skirt: Do you see the slender, gracefully tilted outline of the lower torso of a youthful nude that does not connect to the actual inelegantly stocky calves emerging from under her hem? Could this anatomical detail, comely as a sculpted fragment from antiquity, be a vestige of the matron’s Venus-like youth? Like any good artist (or philosopher for that matter), de D’Amato poses questions rather than attempting to provide pat answers to them. Indeed, as close as this gifted painter comes to editorializing is in the oil and acrylic on canvas that she calls “Hollow,” the title itself a kind of indictment. This stringently organized composition depicts a rigidly stylized figure, drawn in a style that parodies certain early modernist clich?s (a nose that tilts in two directions at once, etc.) and posed beside geometric rectangles in primary reds and blues, as well as more muted secondary hues. Like the American artist George Condo, N?lida Diaz de D’Amato has that rare ability to make a brilliant formal statement even while introducing a note of satire into a picture. It’s all about “Freedom,” after all, a subject she personifies in a painting of that title, depicting a rear view of a beautiful blond nude stretching her arms above her head in a gesture of exhilaration. In fact, this image just may be the signature piece of this splendid series. –– Peter Wiley for Gallery and Studio N?lida Diaz de D’Amato, Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th St., September 15 - October 5, 2012. Reception: Thursday September 20, 6 - 8 pm

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