ANE Orange Logo - Final.png

Sam Trioli & Tim Donovan: 
All That Can be Done

Art New England Blog, April 2013


By Craig Stockwell

In writing this column and making the studio visits that inform the writing I am working out of self-interest. My self-therapy consists of a desire to pull myself out of the studio and out of my minimalist/conceptualist approach to painting. I will continue to paint from that grounding but I observe that the most interesting art being made at this time is made from an expanded platform and these columns are seeking to examine artists who have expanded their platforms and the motivations and questions that they are addressing in doing so. As an artist one often needs to establish a rigor and an isolated studio practice in order to prove one's depth, but at a certain time developmentally and culturally that rigor can prove stubborn and resistant to generous conversation. Sam Trioli and Tim Donovan are two artists that have developed generous and wide-ranging practices motivated by raw curiosity and a thirst for engagement. 

I have chosen to write about these two artists together not because they form a collaborative or because their individual work is necessarily connected but because they are two artists who have recently: 1) had important shows in Boston, 2) they both are from New Hampshire (my own state), 3) both attended New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA) in its formative stage and 4) they have established, together, a presence in NYC with their gallery Launch F18. As artists they represent the full possibility of what enthusiasm can accomplish, and they each carry this characteristic in markedly different ways. 

Sam Trioli keeps a studio in Mont Vernon, NH. Sam is fully an artist and has been since grade school when he knew he was the best. He still carries that confidence and it has blended with a fully transparent strategic hunger for a place at the table. He was accepted at all of the best art schools but chose NHIA with the sense that he could create his own world there, that he would have both support and independence. At NHIA he studied with the accomplished realist, James Aponovich, met Tim Donovan, and they began an ardent dialogue fueled by a few great teachers. 

Tim Donovan had come to art slowly. He runs a farm-based brain-injury rehab center, in Peterborough, NH, that he founded and eventually involved his entire family in. He was searching and curious and first found his way into art by assisting an artist from the near-by MacDowell Colony, Helene Aylon. Aylon is a conceptual eco-feminist artist who introduced Tim to a new range of artistic possibilities. Tim has sustainedly responded with a sense of wonder and generous amazement at both the possibilities of art and the odd souls that populate the art conversation. Early on, in the late 90s, he volunteered repeatedly with the Provincetown International Film Festival and gradually worked his way fully into that world becoming close with John Waters along the way. Sam and Tim are both propelled by possibility, Sam has it mapped out, Tim just knows the ride is going to be interesting. 

After NHIA Sam spent more and more time in NYC and eventually talked his way into working for an artist he admired, Damien Loeb. Sam has clearly identified his love of Hyper-Realism and the Mary Boone Gallery as his ideal interests. Further assistantships followed with Adam Stennett, Ross Bleckner, Jeff Koons and, currently, David Deutsch. Sam had developed exceptional facility as a photo-realist but he is simultaneously wary of being overdefined by the Wow! factor associated with that skill. His recent show at Howard Yezerski Gallery (Brumaire) presented dark images painted from photos of explosions. The dark palette and subject matter somehow was contradicted by a surprising feeling of lightness perhaps made possible by the small and thin scale of the paintings and the masterful technical painting that was so highly refined and hidden. Sam is also engaged in several ongoing conceptual projects including a notebook in which he keeps a deadpan recording of all daily actions with accompanying maps. 

Tim's May show at Gallery Kayafas (Phantasmagoric), featured several large- scale portrait photographs of young faces reduced to minimal saturation so that the eyes and the lips are predominant. These hauntingly beautiful images found a way to express human qualities with a confusing presence. It is hard to know, at first, what one is looking at…is it drawing, painting or photography? 

Launch F18 (F18 is the room number) began as a shared studio space in Tribeca that Sam and Tim had taken on (2010). Originally the plan was to use the space as a place to receive studio visits: to show work to potential gallerists, critics and artists. At some point it occurred to them that their space offered an opportunity to show the work of others, the first being a Slovakian artist that Tim had become interested in, Andrej Dubravsky. They have since found that they could concentrate on openings, create events, invite from their growing and impressive list of contacts and then depend on critical and social response to build a reputation for the gallery. And this has happened. Sales are not a particular priority, building a following and communicating a vision are the motivators. Of course, this is also the smartest way to actually build a gallery, and careers, that might have real currency down the road. As artists these two are taking on all that can be done and finding that shear engagement, engagement without stultifying doubt, is enough to propel a vivid moment of being.