Thomas Frontini at the William Busta Gallery

Yes, the Frontini show really is at the Busta Gallery.  Frontini is not listed online among their stable, but I was there–I saw the show with my own eyes.  Apparently Busta has given up on its online persona; their Flash-encrusted Web material is haphazard and their blog hasn’t been updated since 2011.

Anyway, according to the printed brochure, the show–Eremite: Views and Visitors–runs through Jan. 19.  An eremite, by the way, is a Christian hermit.

The Good:

Frontini appears to be a gentle soul and his works are correspondingly mild.  This is no small thing in the age of the ubiquitous end zone dance–the strut, brag, and sneer.  His subjects are gentle creatures in dream-like settings.  The settings uniformly consist of the same ambiguous,  amorphous space that reminds me of Yves Tanguy’s psychological landscapes, but Frontini has none of Tanguy’s aggression and anxiety.


Frontini’s designs are always simple (a less generous reviewer might say “simplistic”) and often elegant.  His subjects are on the brink of being engulfed by the enveloping–though non threatening–space.  His is a peaceful world; the paintings can easily be imagined as illustrations for children s books.

The Bad:

Primitives either charm one or they don’t.  Frontini plays with scale in a way that’s too sophisticated and consistent (reminiscent of Magritte) to be the work of a  true primitive.  His work is also filled with quotings and borrowings from early Renaissance artists, such as Uccello, and Durer, which denude them of charm they might otherwise have.

Where Frontini is primitive is in his painting style.  He isn’t interested in drawing or the painterly flourish.   The subjects are silhouettes that he earnestly fills in without regard to form, following instead a personal impulse or tic that give the paintings an overworked and labored quality.  Remarkably, the acres and acres of space that surround his subjects fail to impart a feeling of wonder, or awe, or, for that matter, space.

 The Ugly:

Why are artists and gallery owners compelled to burden exhibitions with the hyperbolic flapdoodle called the “The Statement?” In this case, the statement’s author is anxious to place Frontini within something he calls “Christian conceptualization,” which transcends all that is transcend-able (of course), and transforms all that is transform-able (of course) until–voila!–we are in midst of both being and becoming and enter a new reality (well, duh).  I won’t linger over this any further except to say The Statement was seasoned liberally with references to late-medieval artists and Christian saints (excepting St. Thomas who, one hopes, the author was attempting to echo with his being-becoming rhetoric).

In the author’s defense, concoctions like The Statement are standard fare these days, and he actually looked at some of the paintings on view, something which cannot be said for some other specimens of this type.


Someone asked me a highfalutin  question the other day, “What is art?”  I avoid such discussions whenever I can.  “I don’t know what Art is; for me art is like food; it either nourishes, or it doesn’t,” I replied to her evident dissatisfaction.  I find little nourishment here.

[The photo is mine but the work is copyright Frontini]

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