Gigino Falconi is eighty years old this year, with a long life of art behind him. His work demonstrates a vision unique to him, and his powers of drawing from life and nature help him to paint that figurative vision with clarity. In his work from the last decade now on view at the Besharat Gallery, Mr. Falconi’s view of women is the main subject. At the age of eighty, he continues to pursue an obsession around the power of sexual attraction to women.
If there is a unifying scenario in these images, perhaps it is this: I’m in a beautiful place near a natural harbor. It’s a broad harbor protected by low mountains. All sorts of boats come here to dock. As I stroll toward the shore, I notice a woman relaxing near some fishing boat docks. Then I come near enough to see her fully. She is very close to a boat dock, hidden from the dock by some large boulders that line the shore. She lies naked on a bed with sumptuous sheets. Yes, there is a bed there, out in the open. It’s not something a fisherman would have put there. The woman seems to have brought it there. As I come close to her, she looks at me, but she is not startled or concerned to cover herself. No, she welcomes me.
It’s a simple and cliché fantasy. It says far more about the viewer in the scenario than it does about the woman being portrayed. The viewer loves the creases of naked female flesh and the folds of comfortable cloth; loves the availability of silent, vulnerable women; loves to think it’s great to have sex in the open air.
There are no dangers to the viewer’s erotic arousal in that fantasy, especially not coming from the woman being portrayed. However, Falconi the eighty-year-old does see danger in the particular fantasies that these paintings display. Frequently the clouds in the open-air rendezvous are black with imminent violence. Sometimes a bright and mysterious, arced light falls on the woman, as if a giant flashlight were being pointed by God. The Flashlight of Judgment, or the searchlight of predatory fishermen?
Sometimes it’s just the folds of those plush sheets that suggest danger. For the most part the folds of garments and sheets are finely and delicately painted, as if to suggest the presence of contemplation. In some cases, though, Falconi draws the folds as if they had a life of their own and could mold into being certain unwanted, unshapely objects beneath the concealing cover of the cloth.
A similar danger is found in paintings simply portraying the harbor. Those boulders on the shore suggest a threat to the calm, anchored fishing boats. Beneath the silky, smooth skin of the water, one senses that hard, jagged objects lurk and wait to slash the hulls of the boats. In one painting even the sky is violated by a flying sea monster bent on finding prey (perhaps a reference to a legendary monster at Lake Como).
Falconi’s color palette ranging from black to blue to tan and flesh emphasizes the gravity of the erotic question he confronts. His division of some of the paintings with grid lines or wooden dividers suggests an attempt to find more distance on his subject.
The exhibit is called “Enlightenments,” which suggests that there are different types of epiphany. May I suggest the alternate title, Flash-lights?
“Enlightenments” is on view through May 31, 2013, at Besharat Gallery.