Spotlight: Painter James Siena Uses “Visual Algorithms” to Expand the Possibilities of Abstraction

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About the artist: American artist based in New York James Siena (b. 1957) is best known for his dense and complex paintings organized by his own “visual algorithms”. Siena has continually honed her skills and ability to create hyper-precise lines and colors by experimenting with different mediums and techniques; for example, in the 1990s he began using enamel plate paint on aluminum sheets, allowing for sharper lines and extremely pure, vivid colors. He also applied the principles of linear abstraction to a diverse range of media beyond painting, including sculpture, lithography, woodcut, and printmaking. It has won many prestigious awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts in 2021, and is part of the permanent collection of many major institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

What do you want to know: Miles McEnery GalleryNew York, presents the monographic exhibition “James Siena», on view until November 26, 2022. The exhibition presents the latest body of work by the artist and is also his first solo exhibition with the gallery. It includes pieces on a larger scale than is typical of Siena practice and features “phased grids” that result in a cascading or pushing effect, in addition to providing overall compositional logic. Created using acrylic paint and graphite or colored pencil on linen, the intricate, undulating lines and shapes recall the visual effects associated with Op Art and geometric abstraction. Siena’s characteristic precision is particularly evident in the more monochromatic works, which emphasize his technical skill and chromatic acuity. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated exhibition catalog which includes an essay by art historian Robert Hobbs.

Why we love it: Siena’s linear abstractions have the ability to convey both geometric and organic effects, while the paintings’ individual color schemes give each a unique atmospheric presence. Optically dazzling and captivating, whether moving from image to image or considering the exhibit as a whole, Siena’s algorithmic discipline is a gripping experience. For those who have followed the evolution of Siena’s work – and even for those new to it – the accomplishment of these recent paintings is obvious.

See the works in the exhibition below.

James Siena, Sessile Amissae (2020). Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, New York.

James Sienna, Trectiuff (2020).  Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, New York.

James Siena, Tractiveuff (2020). Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, New York.

James Siena, Lovvellaacecceaddaell (2019).  Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, New York.

James Siena, Lovvellaacecceaddaell (2019). Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, New York.

James Sienna, Carnosine (2022).  Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, New York.

James Siena, Carnosine (2022). Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, New York.

James Siena, Intrasine (2022).  Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, New York.

James Siena, Intrasinus (2022). Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, New York.

James Sienais on view at the Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, through November 26, 2022.

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Sharon D. Cole