Emil Corsillo
December 3, 2004 - January 29, 2005

Reception: Friday, Dec. 3, 7 - 9 pm
Artist’s Talk: Saturday, December 11 @ Noon

Green Street Gallery •141 Green Street, Boston, MA. • 617.522.0000
contact: James Hull 857.222.0333

Gallery Closed for holidays: Dec. 21 - Jan. 3

Cate McQuaid's Boston Globe Review

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Some Other Review

Green Street is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition of paintings by Emil Corsillo. Corsillo received a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and completed his M.F.A at Boston University in 2003. He lives in South Boston and maintains a studio in the Fort Point Channel area.

Emil Corsillo creates vibrant, high chroma works that push and pull the viewer through tilting layers of urban landscapes and graphic pattern. Corsillo composes collapsing and folding arrangements of construction, destruction and security that are irresistibly dangerous. Shiny, hard-edged stripes that mimic caution tape create an unnerving, pulsating tension. The paintings are worked and reworked, with unmodulated areas of color meticulously applied in some places, and loosely brushed on paint in others. He contrasts realistically detailed areas with simplified, boldly outlined forms rendered in the flat, cartoon-like browns and grays of video games.

The emotional effectiveness of each work stems from the artist’s ability to place us at the scene. The large scale of each painting makes us keenly aware of our protected or imperiled position in relationship to the towering machismo of the I-beam frameworks and precarious work sites. Shifting diagonals and verticals loom ominously overhead as our viewpoint feels confined by chain link fences, piles of debris and heavy concrete barriers. Corsillo manages to transform a masculine, Home Depot palette of “DeWalt Yellow”, “Battleship Gray” and “Safety Orange” into a cacophony of environmental, military and political apocalypses.

Left to right - Ministry of Peace, (2004) enamel on panel 80h x 60 inches

O'er the Ramparts, (2004) enamel and spray paint on panel 80h x 60 inches,

Free Speech Zone, (2004) enamel on panel 80h x 90 inches

More Images

The photographic sources of the images are often recognizable to Boston pedestrians: the metal skeleton revealed by the destruction of the elevated highway and Orange Line subway tracks, and the construction/deconstruction of security walls, traffic barriers and fences. Other sources are more “loaded” like the fence erected around the “Free Speech Zone” during the Democratic convention. Emil says he “likes the idea that some of the images in [his] paintings come from demolished or soon-to-be-demolished structures and others are from buildings in the process of being constructed.”

All of these paintings are all created on multiple panels (two are usually used or three in the far right image above) which are then attached together to create a larger rectangle. The artist’s investigation of boundaries is made visible in lines that are exaggerated by abrupt changes in composition to imply breaks between panels where there are none and to reveal the otherwise subtle boundary between adjacent panels. Corsillo thoughtfully translates these boundaries, both political and visual, into conceptual juxtapositions of viewer / painting, foreground / background, and present / future. It is this overlap between formal and conceptual structure that sets up such a rich experience for the viewer.

Creating images that appear futuristic, apocalyptic and ominous out of everyday, street-level scenes ties these Orwellian worlds to Corsillo’s observations of the actual changes in his neighborhood. As the artist explains, the painting "O'er The Ramparts" (2004) was motivated by the ring of Jersey barriers that surrounds the Federal Reserve Bank Building, which I walk past every day when I go to and from my studio. The barriers are there to protect the building and the people who work there, presumably because they have been specifically identified as a potential terrorism target. The reason for the huge barricade is ostensibly for the safety of the employees, the building, and whatever else the building contains. But I wondered how safe the people who work there feel every day and if the actual effect of the barricade isn't that it breeds more fear and makes people on the outside feel safer for not having to work inside the "barricaded zone." In a moment of free association I thought about the lines from The Star Spangled Banner:

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

The song talks about watching the war from behind the safety of a barricade. I thought about how America was founded in war and has such a long history of inflicting violence, sometimes just and sometimes unjust. So the painting eventually became about these divisions -- the division between the battleground and the safe-zone, the division between just and unjust war, the division between the two sides fighting each other -- and what it might be like to be on the other side.”


 Telephone: (617) 522-0000, Fax: (617) 983-5005, 141 Green Street, Boston P.O. Box 1140, Boston, MA 02130