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Self-Taught Art
Art Brut

Raw Vision
Review by Edward M. Gomez

Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York
January 10–February 7, 2004

Domenico Zindato is a self-taught artist from Italy who in recent years has lived and worked in Mexico City. Although Zindato, who is in his late thirties, briefly attended law school in Rome, then switched to theater and cinema studies before cutting short his academic career, it is his travels and firsthand experiences in places like India and Mexico that seem to have informed his art-making most vividly.

Zindato uses pastels and colored inks to create richly detailed drawings on paper. Because many of his works are small in scale (no larger than a sheet of letter paper), their size reinforces the sense of intimacy which their meticulously rendered, ornate patterns evoke. These repetitive, serpentine designs, which sweep across broad sections of sometimes dynamically asymmetrical compositions, feature many ambiguous symbols — eyes, disembodied heads and hands, fish, snakes and plant-like forms. In his newer, much larger drawings, which were shown in New York, variably shaped, brightly colored background sections in each piece allowed these works to be read visually, from a distance, as loosely structured, geometric abstractions. When seen up close, though, passages of complex patterning appeared to both emerge from and fuse with each of the colored background sections or zones within these images, pulling a viewer's gaze into their spatial depths with their random rhythms and eddies of mysterious forms.

Zindato admits that his palette has absorbed some of Mexico's signature colors — hot rose pink, tangerine orange, acid-lime greens and brilliants blues. "I never start a drawing with a particular composition in mind," he explains. "A composition grows organically; it just flows, as do the symbols and patterns I devise."

Those motifs bring to mind the surrealism-inspired investigations by American abstract painters of the 1940s, before the eruption of full-blown abstract expressionism, of the symbol-art and iconographies of ancient and so-called primitive cultures. Zindato says that, living in Mexico, he has been inspired by the art of the Aztec, Olmec and other ancient civilizations.

Like other self-taught artists, Zindato has compared his typically very concentrated experience of making a drawing to "being in a trance," and despite aesthetic links — direct or indirect — to other art forms, his work remains deeply personal. More complex in composition and ambitious in scale than his earlier pictures, the artist's newest works are at once exuberant, meditative and quietly spiritual messages from an intensely private world.

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