Friday, March 16, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Visual Arts

Looking beyond Fonseca's simple forms

Seattle Times art critic

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Beneath the relative simplicity of Caio Fonseca's forms - free-floating shapes like boomerangs, bones, melon slices and bowling pins - there's a lot more than meets the eye.

The 42-year-old painter carefully builds his imagery so that what first looks like planes of color are in fact intricate color chords, layer on layer. This is only fitting for an artist who spends part of his studio time at the piano playing Bach.

Caio Fonseca
New paintings, through April 27, Winston Wachter Fine Art, 403 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle; 206-652-5855,

I like the sense of deep space Fonseca creates. Some forms crowd up close against the picture plane while others splay out into the distance in a weightless jumble - like detritus from the big bang. Little lines and arcs, etched and doodled into the paint, jet among the forms like meteors. Those scratch marks let you see the bands of color at rest beneath the creamy surfaces.

Fonseca doesn't bother to give his paintings evocative titles, those afterthoughts that abstract painters sometimes tack on to suggest a meaning that may not have been there originally. The work is identified only by number and the place where it was painted - Fonseca's studio in Pietrasanta, Tuscany, or the one he keeps in New York City. This might create the impression that environment plays a key role in the imagery, but if so it isn't obvious. The work lives in its own world and speaks a language picked up from that of the early abstractionists, though it lacks their powerful emotion and philosophical motivation. Because of that, the paintings seem mannered and a bit self-consciously constructed, which is what leaves me uneasy about this show. Fonseca's work is attractive and adept, but reveals little.

Information in this article, originally published Mar. 16, was corrected Mar. 16. Caio Fonseca's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.


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