Melody Saraniti: "Drips+Grids" at Thomas Masters Gallery
by robin dluzen
Acrylic on wood panel
54" x 56"
Photo: courtesy Thomas Masters Gallery
Chicago-based painter Melody Saraniti has a practice that contains what every abstract, modernist-leaning painter dreams of: a unique mark, though hers is a mark of individuality that's a means to a different end. From a distance--or a jpeg--Saraniti's works in "Drips+Grids" seem as though they are engaging the usual dialogue of Abstract Expressionism, though her meticulous, deliberate picture-making is far from the intuitive chaos of her predecessors. On eleven, untreated wood panels, Saraniti quotes a range of abstract painters using her signature, faux "accidents." Gridworks of fine lines in Lattice (all works 2012) recall Pollock's all-over pictures. In Pool, wide, looping forms resemble the oversized script of later Cy Twombly. Drag-oh-la features one of the only instances of Saraniti's painterly hand, the continuous brushstroke winding upon itself in a figure-ground composition not unlike the work of fellow Chicagoan Jim Lutes.
Up close, the shapes that resemble drips, blotches and smudges in Saraniti's paintings are no viscous, glistening residues of gestural action painting. Her "spills" are not bubbled pools of dried liquid, and her "drips" have no hardened beads of paint that were subject to the pull of gravity. Instead, they're flat, matte forms defined with ridged, taped-off edges. Each "spill" on the exposed wood surface bears the brush's parallel marks, while each "drip" contains horizontal bands of color painted within its borders. This staunch inertness is most pronounced in Replica, where identical "dripping splotches" are literally stenciled--a nearly mechanical mode of reproduction.
Though in the vein of art historical precedents like Lichtenstein's Brushstrokes series, Saraniti's works in "Drips+Grids" are a subtler commentary on the painting canon. Her signature, contrived "drips" and "spills" both embrace and critique expressionistic activity, not so much as a parody of expressionism as one artist's serious contemplation of the role that the painter's gesture plays in the endgame of contemporary abstraction.