Peter D. Gerakaris, Splinternet/La Fantasia Tondo, 2009, Oil over polymer on canvas, 96 in. diameter (243.84 cm), Permanent Collection of U.S. Art in Embassies Program

Peter D. Gerakaris, Splinternet/La Fantasia Tondo, 2009, Oil over polymer on canvas, 96 in. diameter (243.84 cm), Permanent Collection of U.S. Art in Embassies Program

 

Flight of the Bumblebee

Peter Gerakaris creates compositions that are infinitely pluralistic and gravid with layers. Each pictorial matrix showcases edge-to-edge abstractions, extensive patterning and heightened colorism within a compressed space, not unlike the conceptualized perspective employed in Chinese painting. Formal devices such as a collage aesthetic, prismatic lines and abrupt moves from black to white generate dynamic surface tension by maintaining a “push-pull” relationship between deep space and a single perceptual plane. This clustering and combustion effect transforms Gerakaris’ compositions into what he aptly dubs “an optical and conceptual construction.” The frequent use of circular compositions (tondos), which have been a mainstay of his visual language for some time, successfully mitigates visual hierarchy while reinforcing a lens-like perspective into a personal cosmology. While elements of James Rosenquist initially come to mind, such comparisons are only superficial. Although both artists employ abstracted fragments of imagery in large-scale format, Rosenquist’s canvases dissolve into sweeping impressionistic brushstrokes, whereas Gerakaris’ imagery implodes into microcosms comprised of hyper-detailed brushwork. It is as if Gerakaris offers a high-definition microscopic lens into his own paintings and alternate universes.  Moreover, whereas Rosenquist’s compositions exclusively cull American imagery and tropes, Gerakaris plucks strands from Eastern cultures–Chinese landscapes, Tibetan Tanka paintings and Ukiyo-e prints (Japanese floating worlds)–and subtly weaves them into the fabric of American Pop Art. The aggregate effect is like a deep visual meditation where compositions open up space for reflection and rumination on the human condition and creative process itself.

Measuring 96 inches (8 feet) in diameter, Splinternet/La Fantasia offers an explosive, epicurean feast for the eyes by melding fantastical flora, fauna and cosmic vignettes. Within this constructed world, fragmentary views, unexpected juxtapositions and intricate layers coalesce into a kaleidoscopic totality with a conceptualized vision of nature. Originally conceived of as the climax of tondo cycle, including works such as Portex and Echo Garden, this meticulously painted canvas draws upon everything from historic and contemporary modes of painting and design, to science and motion pictures.

Peter D. Gerakaris, Echo Garden Tondo, 2009, Oil on polymer over canvas, 48 in. diameter, Private Collection (San Francisco, CA)

Peter D. Gerakaris, Echo Garden Tondo, 2009, Oil on polymer over canvas, 48 in. diameter, Private Collection (San Francisco, CA)

By fusing cinematic-like characters with vivid graphic botanical environments, the composition attempts to amalgamate our physical and psychological space through a pop culture lens. Originally titled “La Fantasia,” as a reference to the fantasy element embedded in the Fellini films that the artist was watching at the time, the painting evolved into an opus “so explosive and fragmentary” that the title was revised in order to mirror the era of information overload. By grafting the natural world with the digital age, Gerakaris creates a psychedelic blend of the Barbizon Forest and Rococo, buzzing with cosmic activity and florid excitement. Within this digital dragnet, honeycomb-like configurations, pollinating bees, seductive botanical forms, cosmic dust, and delicate dream zones all commingle harmoniously.

Peter D. Gerakaris, Splinternet/La Fantasia Tondo detail

Peter D. Gerakaris, Splinternet/La Fantasia Tondo detail

Splinternet/La Fantasia holds a unique position in Gerakaris’ canon. Due to its substantial Vitruvian scale and experiential impact in person, the creative process required an unorthodox approach for the artist—one that took him away from the wall and onto the floor and back to the wall again. Somewhat akin to 1950s Action Painting, Splinternet/La Fantasia has elements of chance and spontaneity built into its method. Comprised of “fractures that respond to spills,” the technique functions as a form of self-reflective excavation, eager to expose parts of the artist’s painting process. A limited number of background pigments create a diaphanous fluidity in the underpainting that resembles a tie-dye effect. Bursting with a litany of symbols and signifiers, Splinternet/La Fantasia captures minimal objects and recomposes them into a maximal force field.  Digital-Cubist shards of color and fragments of flora simultaneously abut against the foreground and background of this galactic expanse. Opaque shapes are tucked into piles of translucent forms resulting in a multidimensional surface. Intermittent, hand-improvised filigree patterns function as energy fields while intricate tattoos of gloss-black on matte-black vibrate like interstellar zips. Hexagonal and honeycomb motifs hatch repeatedly throughout the picture plane, as if to underscore their relationship to the basic building blocks of life and also to the glowing bee who pollinates its own painting. The artist presents skeins of interpretations to ponder as cosmological quips and sinuous organic forms appear throughout the composition like intergalactic mirages: bees pollinating amongst striated vortexes, human legs curiously suspended in liminal space (perhaps a reference to the notion of a muse), origami petals pulsating and telescoping up into themselves. The bee’s presence amidst this kaleidoscopic aesthetic playfully suggests the unique viewpoint from which a pollinator might perceive the universe, as well as its vital role in the valorization of nature. As our environment continues to collide with the digital world, nature begins to mutate and becomes yoked with an unwieldy necklace of digital propaganda and garish artifice. Perhaps Splinternet/La Fantasia functions as visual dirge on the deterioration and devolution of our gaudy world as we know it. The physical and psychic totality of these parts suggests a feedback loop of epic proportions, analogous to the collision of interior and exterior realities, which comprise the crux of our daily existence.

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