Whereas young artists often imagine living in New York City as a way to break from the past, for his first solo show, titled "Heat," Dante Cannatella has taken something of an opposite approach.
In the exhibition—which is on view at Shoot the Lobster's new Bowery space—Cannatella unveils a series of paintings that reveal vibrant, stylized scenes exploring social dynamics he's witnessed in and around his native New Orleans. Across these canvases, various figures and recognizable settings are precisely rendered—yet often appear overwhelmed, even threatened, by looming swaths of bold, abstract fields of pigment. In this way, Cannatella's surreal landscapes behave as if derived from memory—where recollection brings forth piecemeal details, splayed against foggy, vaguely background-esque blurs.
Take the titular piece in "Heat": hidden beyond the clearly defined edges of a man—who seems to be crawling out of a dark void at the center of the canvas—a hushed procession of wraithlike silhouettes creeps into the periphery. Elsewhere, in Screen Door (2020) [pictured], grey cross-hatching conveys the faint glistening of metal meshwork; where the pattern abruptly ceases, it's a moment before one realizes the breach is a tear in the screen door. Suddenly, the face of a child materializes, peering outward.
By and large, such unsettling imagery is presented in "Heat" without further comment. The ingenious compositional approach wielded by the artist—who is still a student at Hunter—is to weave into these enigmatic narratives a built-in role that engages unwitting viewers of his paintings. A few loose threads beckon them to unravel the mystery at hand, only to draw them in further.
Dante Cannatella, Screen Door, 2020. Oil on canvas, 48 x 50 inches.