Skylab exhibition investigates social, solitary aspects of art

Alejandro Bellizzi has been alone. He'd like to encourage us to not be.

Bellizzi graduated from CCAD in 2013 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He moved to Miami, Fla. to live with his father, but found he spent much of his time there with “no real feelings of connection or peace or human contact.”

That his father blamed himself for Bellizzi's struggles didn't help.

“By the time I was living in Miami and trying to function it was like, the joke's on me, this really long punch line,” Bellizzi said in an interview at his Westerville-area home. “I had a lot of wonderful growing experiences, but basically it was me trying to function and focus and be happy. All families have some dysfunction, but when the spotlight is on you as the dysfunctional one…”

Therapy, medication and alcohol proved unsatisfactory, so Bellizzi returned to Central Ohio for a sort of do-over.

“Basically, life is hard and you shouldn't go alone or you get lonely and sad,” he said, alluding to the title of his upcoming exhibition at Skylab, which opens this Saturday, adding that the show “is this layer of narcissism, in a way. It's about me being lonely, and how I want this connection with other people.”

As an artist, Bellizzi realizes there is necessary alone-ness in the making. Indeed, for him it's as necessary as it gets.

“I don't make a distinction between being an artist and being a person,” he said, explaining how he's always been drawn to art (no pun intended). “I've been making art forever, so for me that's what being a person is.”

“I'm always thinking about ideas and art and things I could be making,” he added, explaining his inspiration for the work in “Don't Go Alone.” “I referred to some ideas I had been thinking about, and I took one of those ideas and started making things. So everything in this show will be new.

“I could have started throwing things together I've already done but that would just make me sad. Then it's not a show, it's just residue, and I don't want residue. I want to push myself somewhere.”

The pieces in “Don't Go Alone” are primarily ink and/or pencil, with gouache applied for color.

“Gouache, the way I work with it, is more about mark-making,” he said of the watercolor variant. “The technique is fundamentally closer to drawing.”

Subject matter includes, broadly, rooms and buildings — places where people are often found.

“I'm obsessed with interior spaces. You look at a building with windows and it has a sense of personality, you know? The building is open; there are humans in there. It almost has an expression to it. So there's this architectural quality, and I'm obsessed with capturing that. I try to accomplish putting that same feeling in the drawings themselves,” Bellizzi said. “The images usually reveal themselves as I'm making them, but sometimes they come fully formed in my head. Thinking about the image is kind of like a mantra, like a phrase you keep going back to in your head. That's how I know it's an image I need to draw: ‘I'm fascinated by this, let's make it.'

“It's a lot of extra work for being alive.”

The drawings have been mounted on wood and fashioned into masks — masks which gallery patrons will be asked (but not required) to wear.

“The art isn't on the walls, it's on the people,” Bellizzi said. “It's deconstructing the art gallery-going experience, not just to be clever or ironic — that's too easy. I'm trying to be sincere, but you know art can be more, so that's why I think it's important to deconstruct it.

“The concept and idea of participating … to me, that's not really the absolute point. It's not like if [patrons] don't listen to rules I made up it doesn't actually do anything to the art. The entire situation is part of the art — the little aspects or details that are added that will only ever be just part of it. If someone doesn't comply, that will also become part of the art. I don't want to be, ‘This is the art and that's the art,' but it's more about making a situation. I'm not making a big claim about what art is. Ultimately, it is about the drawing, which is very important because if the drawings aren't worth seeing it doesn't matter how you see them. Otherwise it would just be irony, and that's not what I want.

“When you put on the mask and then you have to take it off … you have to let go of it. So it's about solitude and loneliness and this mystery of other people, but also the mystery of who you are in relation to all of that.”