STEVEN BINDERNAGEL: The Bursting Grids of Steven Bindernagel

March 20, 2013 11:39 AM

It’s not so much about obsession as it is about calculation, letting go, reining in control and finding an acceptable sense of completion.
-- Steven Bindernagel, 2013

The Bursting Grids of Steven Bindernagel 

At his CRG Gallery show, Bindernagel’s colorful fragments, drips, bursts and grids emerge from careful decision-making and a concern with endless rejuvenation. 

Victor P. Corona, Ph.D.

 Especially enjoyable about Steven Bindernagel’s paintings is a certain insistence on the primacy of flux: what appears as disintegration or unraveling could also be a congealing or genesis. A corner of a painting could be a moment of collapse or an instance of germination. These characteristics all imply a certain rootlessness and endlessness, the absence of any point of origin or terminus. Bindernagel’s interest in constant renewal is also discernible in the title of his CRG Gallery show, “In Conversation,” which emphasized the place of ongoing dialogue between the artist and a painting, and the viewer and the work. 

During a recent walk-through with Bindernagel, I noticed a preoccupation with structure, geometric formation, fixture; the digital on one hand and moments of fading, blurring, shifting, and the analog on the other hand. His CRG show featured colorful splashes and grids, bursts and implosions, but was also attentive to different expressions of flux and decay, which he believed could also be read as rebirth and “coalescing.” A term from the press release that I thought was particularly apt in describing his approach was ‘harnessed discord’. But despite an attempt to rein in fluctuating energies, Bindernagel asserted that chaos was in fact not a plausible reading of his intention. The drips were instead intentional and purposeful. As he told me, “Each kind of splash or drip definitely serves a function.”

A key feature of Bindernagel’s work is a gorgeous texture inspired by the low relief of stained glass windows. When we spoke, Bindernagel referred to another interview in which he cited his Byzantine Catholic heritage, one that revered the flat image but eschewed the statue. In some of his works at CRG, he used cake-baking tools to apply paint in such a manner that it gave the work a sense of layering and depth. As Bindernagel told me, the thick, dark lines encasing bright color suggest a cellular membrane that erupts, structure thereby giving way to unexpected processes of transformation. His love of stained glass translated into repeated instances of visual fragmentation within his work, much like moments of digital glitches. As he said, it’s “a backwards approach to digital technologies, like painting it rather than using it.” 

Bindernagel also pointed out a set of elements in some of his works that he said were inspired by construction tags on a bridge, the kind of everyday street markings that most people ignore. One was a floral, cross-like shape, and another was hexagonal. The artist admitted these motifs and how they changed were “subtle shifts” he did not expect the viewer to easily perceive. Bindernagel compared the appearance of the cross and hexagon within and across his works to “a repeating character” in a television show where “you’re not quite sure what its intentions are.” He had no grand scheme for the repetition of these elements. Rather, they amounted to what he said was “a non-linear history” that was perhaps best represented in Leave the World Unseen. This was probably my favorite work in the show, suggesting a luminous phantasm bursting through a stained glass window or a massive visual corruption of a pixelated screen. The cross and hexagon also appear in New December, where they merge together to form a new figure, a melded symbol that could perhaps recur in future works. In the painting we also detect a kind of nascent infinity loop that could also feature prominently in Bindernagel’s next series, which we hope will further extend his non-linear narratives. 

Victor P. Corona, Ph.D. (victorpcorona.com) is a sociologist at Hofstra University. He is currently writing a book that traces a social and aesthetic lineage from the Warhol Factory to the Club Kids and the current generation of performers, artists, and nightlife personas in New York. He lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

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