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February 5, 2024 By Alex Vlasov
Being With Painting 

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Catherine Lentini, Yellowcake 5, Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 44", 2023

The window of my studio faces nothing but the gloomy Midwestern landscape. Overlooking some parts of Michigan State University, I can see a crowd of students going from one building to another all day. It is monotonous. But to quote Susan Sontag, “The life of the creative man is led, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes.” So, occasionally, I drive down to Cleveland, Detroit, or Chicago to see art shows. One day, driving back from Cleveland to East Lansing, after seeing Catherine Lentini’s paintings at the Abattoir Gallery, I realized that the scenery of Michigan with Ohio is as flat and gaudy as Frank Stella’s paintings.  


But to connect Catherine Lentini’s paintings with the figures of the Op Art movement (Julian Stanczak, Richard Anuszkiewicz, et al.) or people related to the so-called “Systemic” painting (Frank Stella, Al Held, Ellsworth Kelly, et al.) might be too provincial. For someone, I imagine, that could be a paradigm shift. Of course, the connection is there, but Lentini’s work has its foundations that correlate to the development of Abstraction. And that has nothing to do with the famous boys club from the 60s. Lentini’s oeuvre deals with something more than formal concerns. Like in the cases of Robert Delauney or Paul Klee, the artist’s goal is in vision itself. “What you see is what you see,” Stella famously proclaimed. In Lentini’s work, the question is how you see what you see. The enigma of visibility is what the artist is after. 

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Catherine Lentini, Night Vision II, Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 44", 2023

With the assertive apropos to the screens, the paintings invoke the digital world of our present moment. Nevertheless, with this invocation, Lentini isn’t concerned with capturing simply optical data that pummeled the eyes of contemporary life. The optical data deals with nothing more than mere facts. This factualization is of no interest to Lentini. The painting Night Vision II (2023) does not represent technological arithmetical codes rushing through our computer screens. Instead, the artist aims to incite the disconnect of the codes by putting the corridor that ends with the wall of pink color on the right side, disrupting the entire picture. Thus, this pause through the code-breaking makes us think about how that really happened.  


The viewer’s eyes move from one element to another in each painting. Lentini aims to create an image that engages the mind through the physical perception of an object. It is hard to decipher where the painting is. It is there. I look at it on the wall. Yet, it takes me to a different dimension. Painting that the human eye cannot descry. Only the mind can. “Being with” is not quite the same as “being in front.” The work forms its components into an image perceivable by the mind. Paintings are not objects produced into the Arcadian world of suburban real estate. Having an immediate reaction to paintings is an illusion produced by the society of the spectacle, where the pinnacle is the commodity form. What Catherine Lentini critiques, first of all, is how we look at paintings and how we value them. For me, it is a very bold move. 

The reception of painting had been automatized by the commodified culture that doesn’t go beyond the perceptual boundaries. What Lentini conveys is something more mysterious than simply optical illusions. It is entwined in being in this world and how thinking is connected to meaning. Hence, for Lentini, abstraction is a way of resisting the culture of facts, pure mimicry, and standardization. 


After a while, being in the gallery and looking at the body of work of Lentini, this experience is turned into a promise of intellectual truth. And to see this takes time. As well as it takes time to understand that the mind can paint pictures as well as hands. To my eyes, the sun doesn’t exist around the Midwest. But the sun shines through the connection of the eye and the mind in the paintings of Catherine Lentini. 


Alex Vlasov

February 2024

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Catherine Lentini, Untitled, Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 24", 2022

Paintings by Catherine Lentini, November 2023 – March 2024, ABATTOIR at The Quarter, 2615 Detroit Road, Hingetown, Ohio City

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