Leonard Contino: Paintings

by Valerie Wang

Triangles, squares, circles. Most of us are introduced to these most basic shapes in childhood and they often seem irrelevant for the rest of our lives. As we develop, we become more attached to more complex objects. Yet, Contino reminds viewers that bare geometric shapes have the ability to tap into our senses and serve as a means of expression no matter where we are in our lives.

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Leonard Contino. Tian Chihan. 1968. Acrylic on canvas. 64 x 64 in.

In 1962, Leonard Contino experienced a spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic. While recovering, Contino befriended Mark di Suvero, the sculptor that would encourage him to pursue his interest in art. Using a brace for support, Contino started making drawings that eventually grew into his first hard-edged geometric abstractions.

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Leonard Contino. Tumbleweed. 1997. Acrylic on canvas. 54 x 56 in.

Contino’s compositions encourage the viewer to look and think beyond the frame. As Contino forms a dialogue between these fundamental shapes, he evokes movement, rhythm and three dimensionality. His lines are undaunted by canvas borders. In Tumbleweed, 1997, a black and white painting, a single straight line strays away from the centerpiece to lead the eye to the edge of the canvas.

The Floaters series, in which he uses bright polychromatic colors, Contino creates the effect of mobiles suspended in vast spaces. The edgy shapes interact with each other in an almost intimate way.

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Leonard Contino. Untitled. 2006. Mixed media collage on paper. 28 x 22 in. (framed)

At the exit to the gallery, hangs a whimsical collage. It is the only work in this exhibit that contains representational objects: a hummingbird that is already flying out of the picture, and a pair of alluring female legs attached to the bust of a fuzzy primate. It seems shockingly out of place but embodies the same spirit of playful exploration of his geometric abstractions.

This is Leonard Contino’s first solo show in a New York City gallery. It includes black and white, monochromatic, polychromatic geometric abstractions and one mixed media collage. Leonard Contino: Paintings runs from June 14 – July 31st. The Mitchell Algus Gallery is located on 132 Delancey Street on the second floor and is open Wednesday to Saturday, 12pm to 6pm.

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