Merging digital technology, industrial production, graffiti, and the handmade, Ned Vena makes paintings, sculptures, installations, and films through which he explores and, ultimately, upends notions of form, process, and concept in art making. Drawing inspiration from Minimalism, Op and Pop Art, and Frank Stella’s “Black Paintings,” he creates compositions out of an assortment of non-fine art materials—including vinyl, spray rubber, security glass, and commercial ink—which he covers with V-shaped, gridded lines, intentionally marred with a variety of surface imperfections. Vena begins on the computer, working out his angular grids, which he then transfers to canvases with vinyl stencils. He has also affixed these stencils directly onto gallery walls and other surfaces, blurring the boundaries between art and the everyday, and the unique, precious object and mass production.
Ned Vena completed the AICAD New York Studio Program in 2004, and earned his BFA from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2005. His work has been the subject of numerous solo shows, including at the Cohan and Leslie Gallery in New York, NY; Galerie Gebr, Lehmann in Berlin, Germany; Michael Benevento in Los Angeles, CA; White Flag Projects in St. Louis, MO; and Clifton Benevento in New York, NY.
Vena is a contemporary artist, primarily known for his abstract paintings and unusual choice of media. Inspired by the minimalism of the 1960’s Vena’s work experiments with the creation of a sterile, functional, absolute system that means nothing. These influences are clearly present in the bold geometry and line in Vena’s work.
However, the artist breaks with the clinical absolutism of the minimalist movement and allows for a subtle organic influence, evident, for instance, in the blurring of the lines in the lower left had corner of ‘Untitled’, 2011 (featured). In some respects this departure from the mechanical line seems to recognize and allow for the viewer’s inability to leave minimalist sterile; the audience intuitively reads into the work. The audience inevitably imposes their own perspective onto the art as they consider it. It is possible to argue that no work has ever succeeded in being truly ‘minimalist’ as it is piece of work is appropriate and made organic through the practice of human perception and contemplation. Perhaps Vena’s work avoids this ‘failing’ by occasionally including this blip of natural imperfection in his work.
(For this piece, Ned Vena begins his process on a computer using an angular grid. He then transfers this to canvas with vinyl stencils.)
This departure from the absolute sterility of a minimalist system is further evident in ‘Untitled’– Ned Vena , 2011 , (vinyl on aluminium) (pictured right , also courtesy of Blond Contemporary). In this piece – somewhat aesthetically reminiscient of 1930s Russian and Italian futurism – Vena marries the perfection, symmetry and geometry of the minimalist tradition with the fragmentation of 1930’s futurism. The relationship between the prominent vertical and diagonal lines – challenges the eye ; the easily recognisable and comprehensible vertical frame work is disrupted by an upward surge. The conceptual effect of this disruption – this ‘imperfection’- mirrors that of the splodge .
His bold use of line and provocative optics are occasionally evocative of Bridget Rieley’s optical illusions. Vena’s ‘Untitled’ 2009 (enamel on linin) (pictured, left) works with and against the human eye to manipulate its viewer.