At first sight RONALDO GROSSMAN’s paintings could take us back to concrete art and, through its merely apparent effects, to a certain lineage of op art. However, the questions guiding his work go well beyond the fashions and ethics of these historical references.
Enlightened by science and technology, concrete art forms were deployed accordingly to the scientific laws put forth by gestalt theory, in accordance with a systematic program, a serial suit, most of the time conceived to symmetrically obey the unyielding rules of industrial mechanization. The artist was left with the sole task of being but the designer of shapes, the one who plans out a beholder friendly and instantaneous message by mastering the laws of geometry's vocabulary.
The concretist artist, like most of modern tradition's constructivists, nurtured the dream of interfering in the social bedrock of the industrial world, working their way with their methods in order to finally stir the universe of shapes to the climax of sensitivity itself. Altogether, at the wheel of concretism lied a desire to follow the footsteps of industry's standardized serial production, to hail progressivism's ideals of technique, updating this plot into programmatic, predictable and rational forms.
Op art on the other hand, also associated its image kinetics to mechanized movement, generating optical twists that relied solely on the “immediacy” of a merely formal dynamic illusionism, something like an easily reactive to stimuli hinge. Deterministic and objective to the extreme, optical art gave no leeway in its works for pointing out greater problems of perception, i.e. between-the-ground voids, gaps between space and image. Of course, we do not refer to talents like TINGUELY, LE PARC, SOTO, or CRUZ DIEZ, all of whom, by humor or sheer unpredictability, ventured deeper into creating paradoxes, even when manoeuvering at the edges of kinetic art.
RONALDO GROSSMAN maintains a passionate relation with this historical past. Without endorsing concrete art's blunt formalism nor op art's ascetic mechanism, he partially updates its models, rather as an instrument than a simple game of mirrors, to rethink order as phenomenal space.
Rather than stopping at optical effects or speculating over series’ programmatic rationalism, Grossman proposes an abysmal space in vertigo, fitting in no way to any sort of stable space, letting perception flow in cinematic waves, taking us on a journey between furtive sensations and non-stop movement.
Echoing BRANCUSI’s ENDLESS COLUMNS, his paintings fathom the spatial temporal development of forms, which unravel like clusters in infinite patterns. The idea of infinity that often calls on the tangible physical expansion of surfaces, is bound to clash with the confinement of its own pictorial field, which stakes out the limits of the visual “experience”. Hence, space would be the paradoxal catalyzer of any field, at the same time indoors and outdoors, expansive and confined, finite and infinite.
GROSSMAN’s canvases don’t aim at representing, much less at rendering any sort of determined spatial reality, instead they open to endless webs of abstract and ever-flowing crossroads, and surrender to abysmal space, certainly deriving more from the makes of Mondrian’s wit than the stern heritage of Swiss concretism, pointing to directions that converse in the same space, and relentlessly being processed between surface and depth. The momentum that pulses exactly within the cleft between ground and its various perspectives is a sensational one, because it floats accordingly to our senses and position in space, and follows the evolving power of our peripheral vision. The artist’s work has no centre, focus, or detail; everything is revealed as its “peripheral”, its surrounding laterality, shuffling us and embracing our retina as we become one with the action, the subject matter and finally, the work itself. The art piece’s body demands a direct relation with that of the observer’s, expanding the matrix of ties already existing within, virtually, outwards to an external relation, which turns it tangibly “concrete”.
It is only the other's gaze that gives the artwork shape and meaning, and by this bond it is embodied and set to be put forth, to be shown to the world, depending on this to finally be fully accomplished, as a language and message.
By being sensational and experimental, the paintings don't lock horns with reason, yet their meaning is closely related to the webs and voids of their unpredictable space, bearing the concerns of their unstable terrain, where reason oscillates. The repetition or the multiplication of the primary units of these paintings cannot be reduced to a mechanical reflex, like a program that coldly consumes identity, and perhaps, here is where their greatest paradox lies. For a unit that repeats itself is actually, not a "multiple", but a unique painting which does nothing more but resemble the others. What is, in fact, a "multiple", is the spirit of this field, these endless columns that are laid down on linen.
The well-humoured artist says in a figurative sense, that his paintings “tend to stutter.”. The continuity outlined here, doubtlessly refers to cinema, made up of still frames exposed both to the moving camera's jitters and to the light's pulse. Only GROSSMAN's shots are all visible in one single look, and even while stuttering and trying to freeze the motion they are launched in, it is impossible to stop their momentum. The time frame of this work poses a problem, not only for its simultaneous continuity and discontinuity, but also for exposing its own past in constant playback. This work is one that deals with a communicative time set, subject to exchanging glances with the other in order to unveil its new beginning.
GROSSMAN’s proposal may be to emphasize on the conceptual character of kinetic art, treated in his case not as a formal illusionist’s trick, but rather as a strategy to rethink the relations of painting with real and virtual space, with time and the other. This resourcefulness, by which the other’s gaze has a lead role in the painting’s plot, “gives us a glimpse at the space through which things are transposed from one to the other”, and “ensures the horizontal signified condition of things in this very space.”*
In all it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to compare Grossman’s work to the conceptualism of ON KAWARA or ROMAN OPALKA, both of whom work with the progressive and infinite chain of words. There is a similar syntax between the “forms” of the first and the “words” of the latter, in a sense that both see time as a paradoxal beat from a simultaneously elastic and morbid continuum.
To think the “concept” of vision and to expand the perception of space to the awareness of an observing body in situ, is to think the meaning of what is visible while putting it into perspective from the intersubjective exchange between the picture and the beholder’s bliss, which can hence be concealed at the heart of this painting. GROSSMAN’s formal structure necessarily implies the experience of relations, including the intervals and the bare vision’s slips which are compromised by this experience, what Emmanuel Levinas calls “dead time”, the only capable of satiating in one only shot, both discontinuity’s fertility and infinity’s abundance. For it is “within the continuity of its span that the instant finds a death and resurrects.”*