Square with four circles

Square with four circles in New Haven, Connecticut by Felice Varini

Photographs are by Anne Claire-Horner.

A quick scan of Felice Varini's 30-plus-year chronological portfolio reveals a consistent theme -- two-dimensional, geometric shapes in space legible from a single position or perspective -- with an increasing complexity in the geometries and the spaces in which the Swiss artist paints. Circles in the corner of rooms have given way to concentric cirlces on building facades, irregular triangles on rooftops, and now circles within a square on a parking garage near Yale University.

Varini's art seems to be at odds with all that is contemporary in art, especially the foundation of simple geometries and one-point perspective. Complexity, rooted in technological and other changes, and the lack of a privileged perspective (physically and psychologically) are the norm more than Varini's apparently anachronistic creations. But Varini's installations rely on up-to-date technologies that allow his shapes to be projected at night onto the interior or exterior surface that he and his assistants then outline and fill with paint.

Regarding the single versus multiple perspectives, Varini's installations congeal in one particular location but they exist in almost limitless form from the numerous other available perspectives. In the case of Square with four circles in New Haven, Connecticut, it is the walkway between College and Temple streets on axis with the Crown Street parking garage spiral that offers the obvious location for the shapes to register as one apparently flat image. Yet movement through the block's interior gives people partial views, skewed perspectives and other "incorrect" glimpses of the artwork.

But are these other views any less "valid" than the single perspective that reveals the shapes in their proper orientation? Knowledge of the proper position to see the 110-foot-tall painting in its totality affects one's thinking about the installation, but for both those "in the know" and the uninitiated the patches of paint change the urban experience. And that is the power's of Varini's outdoor installations, geometrically simple yet complex in their interactions with people and spaces.

Square with four circles is organized by Site Projects. It is on display until June 2011 and is accompanied this summer by a second Varini installation at the New Haven Free Public Library.