Hans Memling, Tommaso di Folco Portinari, Maria Portinari, 1470.


Kasimir Malevich, Room for the last Futurist Exhibition, 1915.



Installation View of Wolfgang Tillmans at The Museum of Modern Art, Winter 2013.




Installation view of Summit & Flower and Skeleton & Flesh, new diptych works by John D’Agostino from Empire of Glass.

As any sommelier (wine expert), fromager (cheese), itamae (sushi), curator, poet, or even DJ will tell you, the art of complement & contrast – or, rather, the pairing of independent component parts – is a delicate and demanding one.

For the past few years I have been especially intrigued in this art of pairing. Particularly in the realm of the fine arts, the art of sequencing and installation is perhaps in a bit of a Renaissance right now, as novel and unique installation concepts come to the fore. One of the best contemporary practitioners is perhaps Wolfgang Tillmans, and his novel use of floating space and form (see left).

Installation view of new works by John D'Agostino from Empire of Glass.

Installation view of new works by John D’Agostino from Empire of Glass.

Although perhaps a little less common or as dynamic in the past, many different artists through the years have sought to enhance the power of their works by installing them in sequence, such as Kasimir Malevich’s Room for the Last Futurist Exhibition from 1915. Some of Malevich’s works have been re-installed in sequence at MoMA, currently in the Inventing Abstraction exhibition, on view through April 15, 2013.

The history of the diptych is a compelling one. Originally, many paired works were religious, and hinged together like a book. The 15th and 16th centuries in the Netherlands were perhaps a high point in classic diptych works. This pair of masterful Hans Memling portraits above which look so enticing together, were in fact originally part of a Triptych.

Of Coral Bones, 2012. Triptych: 24×30″ + 77×60″ + 44×44″


The art of pairing brings dynamic and unsuspected combinations into action. Symbiosis, harmony & conflict occur. Works now engage in multivalent and multi-layered fashion.

John D'Agostino, Thunderclap of Halt, 2012. Triptych: 44x44” + 77x60” + 30x30”

John D’Agostino, Thunderclap of Halt, 2012. Triptych: 44×44” + 77×60” + 30×30”

There is one caveat, however, in this innovation of installation. As the multiple and the grid seemingly takeover the museum and art gallery of today, it has become more and more apparent that the installation itself has now become so successful, so dominant, that the actual work within the group has almost become irrelevant.The interchangeability of works within the whole has almost now become too obvious. Many an installation sequence has now works within it so mediocre, irrelevant or replaceable that the ‘installation’ has now become its sole reason for being, and its only justification. Too much thought and time has perhaps been put into the installation, and not also into the work.

As such, in my practice I seek to make works of a dual capability. Works meaningful and powerful enough to still exist and thrive on their own. Their subsequent installation in sequence is not their sole justification, but rather, I hope, enhances, focuses and multiplies their effects, in new and exciting combinations.

John D’Agostino, The Hammer of Los, 2012. Ink on canvas: 4 panels of 112×60″