As I wrote another time, Petru Lucaci – a significant name of the pictural neo-Expressionism from the visual arts of the 1980s – has been taking the local cultural milieu by surprise since the 2000s with his determined and apparently definitive move towards the monochromatic exploration of black, in all the nuances and materialities that this “non-color” offers to the explorers and adventurers of art, up to the abstract limit of that which cannot be shown or expressed. This obsession individualized Petru Lucaci in the Romanian visual milieu, although his approach converges with those of other explorers of the “chromatic void,” such as the French Pierre Soulages or the Americans Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, and Brice Marden, who during the second half of the 20th century sought to find the cathartic virtuosity and metaphysical potentiality of the color black.
Petru Lucaci, an agile and prolific spirit, tempted by intellectualism, but also by current events, with an attentive eye towards the metamorphoses of the international artistic scene, has been interested since the beginning of the 2010s in the latest techniques and conceptual approaches to the visual. Influenced by his activity as a professor at the National University of Arts in Bucharest, his attraction to the extra-aesthetic challenges and to the uninhibited sensitivity of the new generations guided him towards photography, video, and the digital in a concise, expanded, and even tridimensional understanding of painting.
Under the influence of that part of the new generation which practices a neo-pop hyperrealism, promoted and encouraged by himself as a teacher, Petru Lucaci recently became receptive to the temptation of photo-painting as a radical way to recuperate the brutal, unfiltered truth of the concrete world that surrounds him and to display it as such. The studio is the place in which the artist submits himself to an ascesis of pictural objectivity without aesthetic filters, simply transposing the everyday objects from his studio onto the canvas as a proof of authenticity.
All these inspired the title of the exhibit at the MNAC (National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest), Material Scapes: juxtaposed in a huge puzzle, his paintings cover an entire wall of the great hall of the MNAC ground floor. Composed in terms of rhythm and complementary chromatic accents, the canvases form a great pictural installation, a kaleidoscope of everyday objects (crates, drawers, paint jars, tools, etc.), from which results the fragmented, sincere, “material,” and mystery-less image of the Studio, seen as the center of his creation. And still, the challenge of a total emotional uncovering is fortunately contradicted by the painter’s virtuosity, which adds a vibrant veil over the concreteness of the nude forms, in accordance with his innate temperament. This is underlined by the black “bidimensional sculptures” around the central pictural installation, materializing typical visual signs for the artist in the previous stages of his career: a kind of abstract “signatures,” which may eventually constitute possible “encryption keys,” transfiguring and transporting the current prosaism onto a subtler, more refined plane.
However, the exhibit Diptych. Clarobscur/Material Scapes, opened by Lucaci in October at the new Leilei Gallery in Bucharest, proves, through the cocktail of tastefully selected works from his famous “black” period (painting or digital print, painting and digital print, but also charcoal drawings or photography), that beyond the effort of self-reinvention and adaptation to a visual photo-realist mentality that predominates in today’s world, Petru Lucaci remains true to himself. As he himself writes in the presentation leaflet of the exhibit, the black-on-black chiaroscuro – which Lucaci modulates in an extremely expressive manner in the exhibited works – “becomes a way to redefine an uncertain, undecided world, always searching for something and someone…,” a powerful and personal way to participate in the tension, drama, and mystery of today’s world and life.
The exhibitions Material Scapes (Curator: Sandra Demetrescu) and Diptych. Clarobscur/Material Scapes (Curator: Petru Lucaci) took place between 10 June – 1 November 2020 at MNAC, ground floor, and between 8 October – 8 November 2020 at Leilei Gallery, Bucharest, respectively.
 Petru Lucaci invited some of his students to exhibit their works alongside his own: Răzvan Boar, August 12-30, 2020; Radu Pandele & Lucian Hrisav, September 9-27, 2020; Ioana Stanca, October 1-18, 2020.
Translated by Daniel Clinci