The Richard Levy Gallery is hosting “Modern Ruin,” an art history potpourri by painter Thomas Frontini, through Sept. 23. The nine-piece installation is filled with creamy paintings in predominantly pastel hues ranging in subject from deer and dogs to industrial detritus, including a metaphoric and dreamlike view of the artist’s studio.
Frontini is a highly skilled and dreamy painter who could be the aesthetic love child of Milton Avery and David Hockney but has adeptly sidestepped his metaphoric painterly parents to find his own niche among serious contemporary artists.
His imagery is clean, fresh and bright enough to stand tall among his peers. Frontini’s imagery evokes memories of youthful walks through the industrial wasteland of Baltimore and other Eastern Seaboard cities and their surrounding areas. Even in heavy wooded and overgrown acreage, one comes upon a section of crumbling brickwork housing the twisted metal debris of some now useless machinery.
In Frontini’s “Modern Ruin #2” a painted metal box stands upon bent legs among strewn shipping crates or stylized crystalline rocks near the shore of a large body of water. The soft, pale-blue sky and stunning, deep-turquoise water do nothing to assuage the melancholy of abandonment.
His own digs are subject to surrealist interpretation: In “The Artist’s Studio” Frontini evokes thoughts of a beautiful pastel day with a chunky gray stone and brick structure dominating the center of a large-format painting filled with Easter basket colors. A lower balcony features a large natural stone surrounded by green grass like a Paleolithic egg. Out of the rooftop grows a skyward bound spindly tree while an ibis-type bird witnesses all standing near the stone foundation.
Though his compositions are fairly simple, they are far from simple-minded. Each painting is blessed with such small details as observant birds or sailboats piloted by dogs or mysterious clouds that do not quite belong but insist on being there.