Not paint, ink or pencil, but gold and silver chains are the medium in which Brooklyn-based visual artist Luis Gispert has created the 12 two-dimensional line compositions in Aqua Regia, his new exhibition at OHWOW Gallery. After arraying the chains on thick flats of fabricated black gravel, Gispert firmly embedded them into this textural surface like medallions crushed into a roadway. The kinetic intersecting patterns that Gispert produces with this newly invented technique are no less stylistically idiosyncratic than any artist’s marks on canvas or paper.
Connecting the traditions of abstract expressionism to contemporary hip-hop culture, Gispert nods to the work of mid-twentieth century painter Morris Louis in the configuration of “Dip Set,” which derives its name from an influential New York rap group. Descending in jagged lines from the upper corners toward the lower center of the tableau, the bright gold chains here also resemble flashes of lightning striking the earth against Gispert’s shiny night-black backdrop.
Six of the pieces in Aqua Regia (literally “King’s Water,” the medieval alchemic solution that remains to this day the only acid compound corrosive enough to dissolve gold) are named after Jamaican DJ, dub and reggae legends, including “I Roy,” “Mickey Dread,” and “Overton Brown.” Another image, “Hypeaholic II,” catches an instant in time when chains are flying up and down around the neck of an active club dancer.
Gispert creates his images in the bold gestural manner of action paintings, but with armfuls of blingy precious metals instead of trays and brushes full of pigment. Historical symbols of both opulence and oppression, the chains are not subsumed into the evocative psychological abstraction of Gispert’s finished pieces, but retain their material essence and identity. Rather than bind the artist, though, they free him to expand his expressive range.
Luis Gispert’s Aqua Regia is at OHWOW Gallery through June 27.