Agnese Udinotti, Shadow Images: The Renaissance, Scottsdale, Arizona (1994)



 In her series, "Shadow Images: The Renaissance," Agnese Udinotti creates vaporous, ghostly figures that emerge from black canvases to testify to their own and the artist's suffering (they often have sensitively evoked profiles that remind the artist of the Renaissance). Immeshed in darkness, the figures emerge in two senses.


 In terms of content, they are trying to be born, trying to survive in the pervasive night. Aesthetically, the figures have been rubbed into existence from the wet black backgrounds in a process of removal the way the series began in 1989 with small drawings on masonite, where the figures were erased from rectangles of black graphite.


 The figures seem both male and female, and all have large zones of red, obviously blood, that are integral to their construction and meaning. "Shadow Image 231" is immersed in a blood bath up to her lips, barely able to breath. In a rare depiction of a couple, #236, they are up to their chests and waists in blood. Others have rectangular holes in the chests, as if war or accident victims, or patients in the operating room.


 Another is decapitated, in effect, by red cutting through the neck. For yet another, a red swathe serves as both loincloth and a savage wound. Despite the "wounds" and suffering, these figures do not rage and thrash about. They are quiet, contemplative, introspective, iconic, dreamlike ghosts that ebb and flow, fluctuating, floating between this and another world of death and the spirit.


 The consistent intensity of obsessional imagery gives the paintings their validity and power. We are in the presence of a knot of psychic and emotional pain and pressure the artist is attempting to unravel, express and release through these haunting images that seem, at least in part, to refer to her father's tragic, brutal death at the hands of the communists in post-World War II Greece.


 The paintings and figures are raised to the level of icons of suffering, memorial stelae like Undinotti's sculptural "Fayum" tombstone portraits of the dead. Some of the figures become almost priests and priestesses engaged in a ritual of distress and remembrance. There is a haunting, otherworldly luminosity in their paint-rubbed "flesh," like decaying organic material in a swamp that leaks faint, mysterious light into the night.


 Recent figures have a subtle double image of the head as if the blur of movement or a film of flesh and or encapsulating spirit hovering beyond the skull. Such an exhibition expresses not only the concerns of Agnese Udinotti, but those of all humanity, to one degree or another, in this most tragic of all centuries in the scale of its disasters.


Copyright by Don Gray


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