Faced with the world’s incessant drive for digital and technological advances, a number of 21st Century artists are showing renewed interest in analogue, mechanical and traditional methods. Recent years have seen collage undergo a veritable renaissance whilst analogue photography continues to occupy a prominent place in the practice of contemporary art. The main reason for this unending fascination with seemingly outdated methods is the fact that these methods have left a mark which has not only been accepted as part of an artwork, but which also reveals crucial elements of artistic technique.
It would appear that Ronaldo Grossman is also working against the currents of time; since 2005 he has been creating abstract images from painted pieces of wood. Grossman makes use of the art of inlay; a technique whose roots stretch far back into the history of art and craftsmanship. Inlay involves joining wood veneers to produce a pattern or an image on a plane surface. By painting MDF panels to create colour fields and assembling these into abstract compositions, Grossman uses the simplest of means to revolutionise this technique. At the same time Grossman sets himself apart from historical movements such as concrete art, which he has only adopted loosely, or literally “superficially”, in his images. Whereas concrete art is guided by mathematical and geometrical principles, Grossman, by contrast, is far more interested in creating a subjective, not mathematical but rather phenomenological, and even mystical expression. (The technique of inlay – the term stems from the mid 16th Century – also entails a “slowing down” of the artistic process and thus in a sense keeps the viewer at a sceptical distance from technological, but also intellectual, progressivism.)
Ronaldo Grossman’s paintings feature gradations and clusters of black, grey and white tones, highlighting the endless possible variations of the individual units within the work as well as the unlimited number of possible colour tones. Within a confined, bipolar system, based on the most elementary of principles, there opens up an infinite array of possibilities. When Ronaldo Grossman alludes to ancient art forms in his works, such as the ground mosaic on the central square in Manaus or ornamental mosaic works dating from Roman times, and does so using one of the most ancient artistic techniques known, his work then, on another level, takes on an infinite historical and cultural dimension. In this light, the artwork itself becomes a metaphor for infinity; of shapes and images as of ideas and concepts.