Sam Penaso: In an Artist’s World

Forget politics and religion. When it comes to taboos at the dinner table, few things can get more divisive than the topic of modern art. Indeed, one of its most distinguishing characteristics - abstraction - has been around ever since the first few years of the 20th century, as the form was adopted by various illustrious artists in their works. However, even time has proved incapable of making abstract art more favorable among those who still don’t consider it as real art by any means. Known for its shock value, as well as its reputation for requiring much less skill to create, abstract art is as polarizing as it was when it emerged as a strand of modern art more than 100 years ago, back when it broke convention and changed the world of art in big and unalterable ways.

However, Sam Penaso might just persuade critics of abstract art, who think of it as possessing little to no inherent and artistic value, to change their minds. While we have generally ceased to register such works of art as disconcerting due to our more modern sensibilities, Penaso’s art - many of them abstract - can be considered anything but amateurish, and is in fact done in visibly masterful fashion. Here’s a virtuoso who’s dedicated most of his life’s work to his craft, and this clearly shows, both in his prolific career and in the award-winning artworks he produces.

Three of his latest works, Infrastructure 089, Infrastructure 088, and Skyway 088, are a masterclass in abstract technique. These, by the way, aren’t your typical abstract paintings which look as though they were painted in the most arbitrary way, with paint splattered on the canvas only to result in one colorful mess. Rather, they seem to have been painstakingly painted by Penaso with great deliberation, as seen in the way he incorporates geometric figures and cryptographic elements, almost as if to invite the onlooker to read between the lines or to decipher some hidden meaning. Indeed, these paintings are compelling enough for any casual observer to ask, What could they all mean?

Only Penaso, it is safe to say, truly knows the answer to that question. While it used to be the artist’s role to create works that most accurately represented reality, artists like Penaso have shown us that art can also be used to convey their own unique visions of the world. After all, beauty and transcendence can also be found in the things we cannot see.