My work begins with a drive to turn my inward questions outward. Because the questions change, the media and modes by which I answer them do as well.  Markmaking is at the core of my work (I was trained as an etcher and printmaker) and at the source is the notion that a hand and a tool create, stroke by stroke and moment by moment. The whole that I achieve is dependent upon those accumulated marks both as mass and as individual. In all of my painting, drawing, sculpture, and ceramic vessels, I have a reverence for the mark as time and body’s residue, as both cause of the whole and preserved, memorable instant.

My painting is, in the main, figurative, and portrays the individual with concern not only for its physical iconography but also for its emotional identity- never delivered too directly, and sometimes approached with an intentional slant. I come from a school (institutionally and intellectually) that sees printmaking less of a material discipline, per se, than a conceptual field of the multiple. In my most recent body of work, I am using traditional drawing as a means to create ceramic multiples. Although the marks are made mechanically, they are physical, and constitute traces of my own autographic marks.

In my collaborations with Blake Larsen, as Edsen Luters to his Frysch Dutson, it has been my duty to join him in a dance. I take his given figure and try to pry something peculiar out of its brightly colored austerity. I use patterns in reaction to the pose, the person, and the individual shape; this allows me to explore an idea, a sense of depth or even accentuated flatness, a cultural association, or simply to shape the eye’s walk along the painting’s surface. It feels like a dance; not like formal or choreographed movement, but an improvisation linked to Blake’s vision and to the unfolding steps of my own rhythm. Together we unchain the nude by transforming an old and pared-down form into something new and intentionally strange.

In my most recent body of paintings, the blockheads, I am responding to a set of self-imposed constraints: the format is square. The subject is a human head. The color is non-local. The marks are quiet- all blocks of color and thin lines. The end result is an interpretation of the portrait as defined by discrete transitions and fields of single color rather than controlled gradations. Within those constraints, I am pursuing a mode of portraiture that is rooted in Chicago-style Imagism. 

While these differing bodies of work vary nearly as much in tone as in medium, each arises from a desire to make art that is real and alive, built mark by mark.

About Alex Costantino:

Alex Costantino grew up in the Greater Baltimore area and holds a BFA in printmaking from Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from the University of South Florida in Studio Art. In addition to creating art, he teaches art at Enosburg Elementary School, Champlain College, and Burlington City Arts, and volunteers at Generator, a makerspace in Burlington, VT.