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FIBERARTS The Creative Process
March/April 2000
Domenico Zindato's World Music on Paper
By Pamela Scheinman

Pulsating with energy and an eclectic spirituality, Domenico Zindato's paintings on handmade paper achieve the visual equivalent of world music, drawing on Indian miniatures, Australian aboriginal bark painting, prehistoric rock art, and tribal textiles for imagery. Inks and water-colors layered over pastel grounds create a dazzling tour de force of hue and pattern. Dots, teardrops, leaves, lozenges, zigzags, and nets fill every inch. Both this horror vacui ("fear of empty space") and meticulous rendering identify a "strong outsider sensibility," which may not be why Phyllis Kind, who shows artists such as Martin Ramirez and Adolf Wolfi in her eponymous New York SoHo gallery, is touting Zindato as her most recent discovery.

The 35-year-old artist was born in southern Italy and studied law briefly in Rome before switching to theatre and cinema studies. He tried Milan, then in 1988 set off for Berlin, a center for avant garde art, where he met the Canadian painter Attila Richard Lukas. By 1997 Lukacs was living in New York, and Zindato had moved to Mexico City. Lukacs urged Kind to look at Zindato's portfolio, and the two friends literally sat on the doorstep at 136 Greene Street until she did, which resulted in their having concurrent one-person shows last spring.

Although critics relate Zindato's palette to his Mexican environment, the brilliant combinations burnt orange with chartreuse, yellow-orange, and cobalt or gray with plum and jade, along with plum and jade, along with the figurative elements in his recent work, are as likely distillations of his travels in India, undertaken as part of a restless quest for a personal style.

Specific works play with trompe l'oeil effects: For example, #34 duplicates the intricate stitches of kantha, the quilted Bengali folk textiles, while #31 appears to superimpose layers of intricately patterned cloth, with one corner folded back like a bed cover. Here, the careful, repetitive act of painting, like the ornamentation of textiles, suggest a devotional act: Indian textiles fit into a complex ritual life. The format of #13 resembles an embroidered household shrine, with a pair of birds flanking a cross of keys, surmounted by a huge masked figure whose legs form an alter.

The cosmological diagram is another reference, clearly seen in the use of radiating circles or concentric spheres, halos, and flaming rays. Often these signs are mixed with genealogical symbols representing creation myths, such as floating and dancing bodies with pronounced genitalia; hands, eyes, and masked heads (typically associated with ancestors and potent magic); and tree-of-life forms interlaced with snakes, butterflies and four-legged animals.

Zindato's paintings not only invite decoding, they often contain groups of letters forming syllables of an unfamiliar chant or lost language (as in #76). Speaking in tongues, representing a direct communication from God, is a characteristic of some outsider art; the use of letters as decorative motifs and surreal wordplay (Zindato is multilingual) are alternative interpretations. Ultimately, the visceral appeal to the eye is what counts.

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