New Work: 2014 - 2016: Tony Romano

Tony Romano:
New Work: 2014 – 2016

We are delighted to begin the new year with an exhibition of recent sculpture and a film installation by Tony Romano (Cdn, born 1978, lives Toronto). In the front gallery, Carrier (2014) is comprised of a hand-drawn poster announcing a film, a custom welded metal bench, a short film and a small photograph. The nine-minute film revolves around the Universal Carrier, a small, lightly armoured, open-topped, fully-tracked vehicle, with mortar or machine gun mounts, used by the Canadian Army primarily in the Second World War. These were built at the Ford plant in Windsor, Ontario in the early 1940s. In the film the tank is cut up and parts of it are melted down in a Bowmanville foundry to become bars and finials of the type commonly used in metal railings. Romano then used this reincarnated steel to build the bench upon which the viewer sits to watch the film of its making. He also built and installed two new railings for the veterans who gather at the Canadian Legion’s club in Whitby, visible in the black and white photograph. the film is scored by the artist with orchestration that suggests cartoons and sit-coms, lending a playful, innocent air to the dangerous, industrial work taking place in the foundry and with the cutting torch in the shop-yard. In the back gallery is Kissed By A Mule (2014 – 2016), a large stage-like platform upon which two sets of several sculptures each, are arrayed. The components of some of these are the welded together remains of the Universal Carrier, now brightly painted and totemic, in line with the formal strategies of various post-war Modernist sculptors from David Smith to Anthony Caro. With this project Romano has spoken of recalibrating the karma, or intent, of the steel, reclaimed from a violent past into a new existence as peaceful works of art, railings and benches. Through these gestures Romano poetically enacts a kind of war effort in reverse (when many sculptures and railings and benches were melted down to deal with the shortage of steel for munitions and tanks during WWII). A second set of sculptures, each painted black and adorned with fibreglass figures, complement those made of the tank fragments, and together suggest the facets of an artist’s life, complete with garden, kitchen, a muse, a sleeping lover, a studio with tools and – perhaps – a self- portrait of the artist himself. Working within a family tradition of carpentry and metal work Romano uses these sculptures to explore the possibilities his everyday materials and, in doing so, to bridge the disparate worlds of daily working class labour with the more rarified atmosphere of the high art object.

Regarding Night Thoughts, Romano’s first solo exhibition at Beers London, 2016:
“Growing up in a family of woodworkers, Romano’s primarily sculpturally-based practice comes intuitively. His work exhibits remarkable confidence: a perspective that is both whimsical and brutish, allowing the physical properties of his raw materials (often wood and steel) to announce themselves distinct from this almost austere presentation, into something much greater than the sum of their parts. It is in Romano’s handling of such unadorned media that the works find their beauty, and there is a fantastical, folkloric quality to the work as well, some naive ingenuity in which the artist releases these dramatic forms from such raw material. There is a Romantic notion that the Classic sculptor does not actually ‘create’ his sculpture, but merely ‘releases’ it from within his resolute block of marble. With Romano, we see an almost gestural silhouette. His forms are akin to that of a skilled draftsman drawing within a sketchbook; here, Romano brings these sketches to vivid life in three dimensions, but always with a sense of play and wonder.”