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Brushing Into Former Classmate
July 18, 2005 - By Amanda Henry ahenry@tampatrib.com
Published: Jul 11, 2005

Some people mellow out - or sell out - with age. Giancarlo Rendina isn't one of them.
The 33-year-old artist, whose work will appear in the inaugural show at exhibition space Flight 19, is just as intense and creative as when he was a smart, punk-loving 15- year-old with crazy hair - who happened to sit across the aisle from this reporter in 10th grade English.

The hair has settled a bit, but there are plenty of piercings and colorful body ink to compensate. Rendina spent six of his post-high school years completing a bachelor's in art at the University of South Florida, with three concentrations - painting, photography and intaglio - instead of the required one. His old hardcore band, the People's Court, has disbanded, but music and words are still a big part of his life, sharing mental real estate with the visual media.

""That keeps me pretty much satisfied all the time,'' the mildly hyper Rendina says of his genre-hopping. Sometimes the pursuits intersect, as when a line from a song turns up in the name of a painting, or he prints a "zine to give out at art openings. (""I really think art shows should have that - party favors,'' he says.)

The work he will show in ""Steeples'' - a name Rendina came up with 24 hours after being asked to do the show a month ago - are new pieces, mostly painting and collage. He works on them evenings and weekends in the studio of his Southeast Seminole Heights home, under the watchful eye of his cat, Biscuit. During our interview there, he chain smokes between swigs of Pabst Blue Ribbon - a beer he drinks in spite of its newfound hipster status, not because.

The small-scale paintings juxtapose Rendina's own visual lexicon - skeletal figures, antiquated military equipment - with images from old magazines. The colors verge on the lurid, a palette that makes more sense when he reveals another source of inspiration: vintage sci-fi and horror movie posters.

Although he enjoys playing with Pop imagery, Rendina doesn't consider himself a disciple of Warhol.

""If I have to start talking about allegiances to schools of thought, it's really classic Surrealism for me,'' he says. The titles of his paintings, which could just as easily come from poems, bear this out: ""He Suspected That He Was a Syntax Error''; ""Sewer Mermaid''; ""Persistence of Anxiety.''

But like any good child of the "80s, Rendina takes the high - painters Francis Bacon, Egon Schiele and Hieronymous Bosch - with the low.

""I see a lot of really hack job illustrations,'' he says of his day job as a screen printer. ""I find these little malaprops in design inspiring.''

Rendina has worked with Experimental Skeleton, the group that runs Flight 19, in the past. Skeleton's Joe Griffith thought of Rendina for this exhibition because his work is so unlike the digitally manipulated photos by ex-Devo singer Mark Mothersbaugh (one of Rendina's idols), which are on display in the other half of the building.

""The work that Mark is putting in the gallery is very slick and clean and digital, and Carlo is the opposite,'' says Griffith. ""He's very hand-to-paper, rough - very invested emotionally.''

Perhaps not surprisingly for someone who works in collage, Rendina likes the idea of putting his art in an unexpected context.

""One of the core beliefs of Experimental Skeleton is to expose and engage people with artwork in unconventional spaces,'' he says. ""There will be strange collisions.''

Reporter Amanda Henry can be reached at (813) 259-7569.

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