Review by Tom McGlynn, 1999
Andrew Castrucci casts for his metaphors. What gives his work resonance is the lengths he goes to marking the twine, dangling hooks and lures, that plumbs a personal and primordial memory. The reference is Mark Twain's. Riverboat deckhands measured the Mississippi with marked line to steer the boat clear of submerged obstacles. The deeper the mark the clearer the way. In his survey (1989-1999) exhibition the river speaks Castrucci's conduit of memory is the Hudson. Both author and artist escape picturesque provincialism by understanding that river culture is related to the evocative power of memory. A river is never in the same place twice. It swallows up experience and spits out secrets beyond rational measure. Like the metaphors used for emotions that either flow or submerge, the river's code is deciphered in the floods and recessions of memory.
Castrucci's symbolism is at first frankly direct and literal. A series of paintings of closely cropped wave surfaces teasingly resist one's attempt to dive into these pictures. It is the surface tension of the water and the indeterminate nature of the neither becalmed nor stormy gesture that repels attempts at reason or the measurement of the painting's content. The work presents a symbolic sublime predicated on what is beyond measure, yet circumscribed by it's unitary square.We experience what amounts to a box of void. In this the artist's urban environs are symbolically evoked. The regulated anonymity of New York, the ebb and flow of souls through black subway caverns and the plumbing of countless apartment lives works within the gleaming surface of the city. In another painting the Empire State Building, a cliche image of Manhattan if there ever was one, is inverted to deflect such a facile disinterest. Castrucci has talked of the New York skyline as an upside down reading of the river's bed(1). Given his perspective one can visualize the skyscraper's accumulations as a cast from a mold of the river itself, a metaphoric embodiment of the void.
The artist evokes the poet W.B. Yeats in his lines of "the fabulous formless darkness"(2). He has drawn upon a tradition of accepting the unfathomable as subject, a particular tradition in American art and the sublime. Barnett Newman's epiphany of physical space as memory at indian burial mounds in Ohio(3) and Tony Smith's late night ride on the unfinished New Jersey Turnpike in which he experiences an "unframeable" space(4) come to mind. In these instances nature's memory, or primordial time, is accessed through concrete symbolic vehicles; one ancient, one contemporary.
In a gallon jug on a pedestal the artist sits a measure of Hudson River water. It gives off an undersaturated green glow. This captured essence can be looked upon as reeking of the pathos of our small understanding of the larger picture, or unfathomable nature. It can alternatively be seen as a fetish, as to humanely reason with the void. In all of his work Castrucci plays this dualistic meaning to capture the viewer between the two worlds. Between the real and the ideal, water and air.
In another body of work, “Hooks Series + Extended Elements” the artist uses more literal symbols; hooks, lures, to get at what is normally beyond reach. The schematic caricature of lures (as prey turned deadly) and the fatal economy of form on a barbed hook turn the viewer back onto contemplation of the physical, mortal body. The artist's implication is that we who throw ourselves willingly upon the traps of the ideal, whether they be in art or life. The mortification of flesh is the sacrifice for a transcendent moment, of being pulled from a submerged world into the air , towards death and transformation. Is the so impassioned idealist a sucker or a saint? Castrucci wisely leaves his conclusions in the deep.
1. Quoted from a conversation at the artist's studio April 18, 1999.
2. W. B Yeats (1865-1939) “the fabulous formless darkness” (from definition of the word confusion)
3. "Ohio ,1949" Barnett Newman, Selected Writings and Interviews.,
(Knopf, NY, 1990)ed. O'Neill, John P.
4. "Talking with Tony Smith" by Sam Wagstaff Jr. Artforum, Dec. 1966