“Unfortunately, the tragic coincidence just happened to work out that way. It’s pretty ironic. I desperately needed time and I found myself having all the time in the world,” Tony Toscani told us when we last checked with him earlier this year for a magazine feature, one year after originally visiting his Brooklyn studio. And after a year and half of self-imposed (but also global pandemic-imposed) break from exhibiting, NYC-based artist is about to open his second solo exhibition with Massey Klein Gallery fittingly entitled Isolation.

Even before such terms as quarantine, social distancing, or self isolation became part of our everyday vocabulary, Toscani’s work was about those precious and intimate moments of solitude and melancholy. Whether deliberate or under the pressure of society, snapshots of such distanced existence were instantly relatable and had recently become more significant and timely than anyone could have imagined. Presented through stylized portrayal of his withdrawn “daydreamers” the paintings were somewhat of a social critique on our routines and values, with an emphasis on how we really look and act in opposition to our social network facade. And with time, they became a universally applicable documentation of common physical states, evoking the notorious feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and apathy which blossomed during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“I got really attracted by these tiny head figures because it really related to our current time where people are just kind of distracted a lot,” Toscani explained the uncanny appearance of his seemingly gigantic protagonists back then. Unintentionally designed to comment on our reduced use of the mind and the increased use of the body, their appearance turned out to be fitting the current mindset and the subsequent atmosphere. Entitled So Uncertain, Reading Comments, After A Workout, Anxiety, Resentment, Morning Routine, the new paintings comprising the upcoming exhibition suggest everyday scenes in which recurring, numb-looking subjects are going through their lives. With oversized clothes hanging over their elongated bodies, they seem clumsy and unfit for the simplest task they’re put up against, whether it’s checking their phone, painting at the studio, sitting at dinner, or arguing with their partner. 

“Somehow, our melancholy manipulates us into thinking we are divided. But in fact, it is this very emotion that unites us,” Toscani suggests in the artist’s statement accompanying the exhibition, in a way celebrating and promoting this unpopular mood. With a subdued color palette and dabbing like technique that perfectly depicts the fuzziness of big cozy sweaters, he is portraying not only the beauty but the actual necessity of such state, breaking the societal barriers between the real us and what’s socially expected from us. And once cracked beyond the superficial despair of the imagery, one can almost tuck-in alongside his sitters and indulge in waiting for a better moment, isolated together. —Sasha Bogojev