Girandola’s Sticky Art

By Maxwell Redder

Duct tape drawings are an interesting concept: taking a material originally created for sealing the joins of metal ductwork, and using the different colors available to cut shapes and collage them into an image.  Of course, the production of an array of different colored duct tape is a more recent addition to the brand in response to the popularization of many different uses with the product.  Joseph Girandola uses the mass produced tape to create enormous “drawings,” which technically would be more like collage.  The concept itself is not new.  Pablo Picasso popularized collage with artworks like Glass and Bottle of Suze.  Collage has moved through art movements: Marcel Duchamp and Hannan Hoch in Dadaism, Salvador Dali and Man Ray used it extensively in surrealism, Romare Bearden preferred the method as a civil rights voice, and Richard Hamilton used it as a precursor to Pop Art.  Now, Girandola uses it in his exhibit, Rise and Fall: Monumental Duct Tape Drawings, by creating images of famous architectural wonders, which are crumbling but still withholding time.  He uses a modern material to collage drawings of ancient brilliance.

The amount of work cutting tape into tiny pieces and shapes to then assemble large iconographical architectural constructions is impressive.  A perfect example is in Amore mio… ti manco? in which little squares, probably ½” x ½”, cover the huge towers of the Taj Mahal creating a rounding, or, three dimensional effect which is able to make the towers feel more alive.  Hundreds of the squares cover the Taj Mahal and filter down into the reflection of the massive structure into the pool of water in front.  Girandola’s treatment of the sky in Amore mio… ti manco? is intricate and successful.  It appears to be a setting or rising sun as it uses yellows and reds which also filter down into the pool.

He is not painting on to the tape.  He uses the different factory colors of the product.  Girandola is pretty well able to leap over the limitation created by pre-prescribed colors; however the hindrance does filter through in some pieces.   The best example is a drawing called H20 DuctH20 Duct is a double paneled drawing.  One panel is raised a foot above the other.  The blue sky and white clouds are obvious like paint right out of the bottle.  The clouds are cartoonish and unbelievable.  The dynamic composition isn’t strong enough to justify a vast open space of blue with a couple pure white clouds tossed in.  It lacks the fluidity presented in the other works.  H20 Duct is certainly the least realized drawing in the exhibit.

Even Henged, a monumental representation of Stonehenge, allows the colors to run together and pop in and out of space.  It also has a three dimensional aspect in which the panels mimic the shape of the Stonehenge structures.  However, it too could learn from the composition of Amore mio… ti manc? by bringing in colors in a more painterly fashion.  I must mention that each artwork was UV sealed with surfboard resin.  The coating seems to mimic how like the ephemeral material being used, the building themselves are also ephemeral, but can be protected with repairs.  The resin severally reflects light at times being extremely distracting, especially in the case of Henged.  The very glossy surface stops the viewer from being able to take in an entire composition without glare.

Two other monumental architectural wonders represented are the Coliseum in Colosseo di Romano, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Leaning Tower.  Both are very successful and care was taken in the intricate details such as the fence around the Coliseum and the brick work in Leaning Tower.  Both of these drawings feel complete and appropriate.  Other tricks are used such as pinching the tape to make it rise off the surface and really accentuate crossing the lines between two and three dimension.

Girandola also creates portraits in his piece, For Your Eyes Only.  One of a female and one of a male face each other.  The diptych is reminiscent of Piero della Francesca’s, Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, but with a Muslim touch.  Floated off the floor is magic carpet, frills and all.  The image on the rug depicts two silhouetted figures staring off a cliff, perhaps in reference to Friedrich Nietzsche’s novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra in which he references that when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.  However, with the Eastern influence I’m lead more to believe that it is a reference to a religious text.  The composition is reminiscent of Wenzel Hablik’s, Sunset, Mont Blanc.  Two intertwined duct tape roses rest against the wall between the portraits and in front of the magic carpet.  For Your Eyes Only is Girandola’s most poetic and romantic composition.

Girandola’s six pieces installed at the University of Cincinnati’s Meyers Gallery are impressive in neurotic attention to detail.  A couple more works would have filled the space better; the gallery feels somewhat naked as is, however the exhibit is still worthy of viewing.  Be warned, when you walk in you will smell the art.

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