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ART REVIEW: Binary stars 

"Core Collapse: New Collaborative Works from St. Monci and Justyn Iannucci"

Collaborative work by St. Monci and Justyn Iannucci hanging in the Little Theatre Cafe.


Collaborative work by St. Monci and Justyn Iannucci hanging in the Little Theatre Cafe.

It's not easy to combine two distinct styles and aesthetics to create cohesive pieces of artwork. Besides the normal concerns of technical and symbolic prowess, collaboration demands practice in not getting too attached to your own ideas and solutions. In preparation for their current show, "Core Collapse," painter St. Monci and illustrator Justyn Iannucci passed works-in-progress back and forth between two rooms in Monci's house. Working separately, they completed the pieces over time, tweaking them into beautifully balanced compositions that the artists say are meant to explore the unknown in the collaborative process itself, and to parallel ideas of disruption and assemblage within the universe.

"This show is almost eating itself," Iannucci says of the symbols and motifs they cannibalized from their portfolios for this body of work.

For these pieces, Iannucci drew from drawings and designs he'd created for different projects, but also featured little gems he'd been saving in his sketchbook. The hue-saturated, shooting shapes and shards represent Monci's crispy, dimension-busting style.

In each work of this show, the marks of the two artists are locked in a kinetic dance, orbiting one another as they jet through space. Monci's planes of color are stationary foils for the illustrations, or shooting beams of energy that bisect and pierce Iannucci's familiar, earthly objects. The colorful and graphic works were created using ink, paint, marker, and grainy-textured Xerox transfers of Iannucci's illustrations. Traces of penciled lines are visible, adding an extra delicate dimension to the bold imagery.

The joint process of two makers is alluded to in "Transmission Freq. IX," in which two prone and expressive hands seem to move shapes around without effort, and a screw — a ubiquitous image in the show — moves out from behind a thin rectangle. Many of the works form masses of objects-in-space held together loosely by their own gravity, as likely to become a bigger heap as they are to disperse if disturbed. The seeming weightlessness of the hands is echoed in "Ping: Zero G," in which a black-clad girl gently falls backward through shafts of purple and blue light, accompanied by a joined bolt and nut.

St. Monci is a collaboration veteran, having worked on several installations over the years with members of Rochester art collective, The Sweet Meat Co. He currently has a painting, titled "Reaction Unit," in "Space//Squared," a group show at San Francisco's famous urban and contemporary art gallery, White Walls. Iannucci is an RIT graduate and illustrator. His list of clients includes Canto Magazine, Complex magazine, Cherish Records, Dadastache Records, Planned Parenthood, and Chick Pea magazine.

The pair connected over their sense of design, Iannucci says. Two collaborative works in 1975 Gallery's skull-themed "Volo Calvariam" group exhibit, held last fall, showcased the first fruits of a collaborative relationship that was tested boldly on a wall in the South Wedge neighborhood last July. During the 2013 Wall Therapy street art festival, St. Monci and Iannucci painted a skull-splitting mural on the back of a building on Gregory Street, between South Clinton and South Avenue.

"Core Collapse" is an exploration and showcase of the relationship's continued development, embodying that mysterious gap bridged between two creators.

"The process is the concept," Iannucci says. "But we're also drawing parallels with this destruction-forms-creation idea, like with stars within the galaxy," using tried and true building blocks to create a cycle of new stuff.

"Nebula" might be the most overt example of this. A chaotic cloud of floating and overlapping objects and faces illustrated by Iannucci — all relatively similar in size — fills the picture plane. A bottle of Jameson, a screw, traffic cones, a boot, a steering wheel, are interspersed with bright bands and shapes of color. Contrast this with the most straightforward terrestrial scene in the show, "Transmission Freq. VII," in which pendant traffic lights weigh down power lines that crisscross what looks like a hazy summer sunset. What could be clouds or contrails are reduced to thin white bars angled this way and that across the salmon sky.

"We were trying to draw parallels between humans and space — that unknown — and artists and collaboration, where the collaboration is the unknown." Iannucci says. "And these works are like satellites going into the unknown. Echoes and pings."

The works also serve as transmissions between their two separate universes. Each of us draws from "what surrounds you, and the summed-up version of what you see, what catches and holds your attention," Iannucci says. This work symbolizes putting a new lens on your experience through the collision of worlds.

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