FOUR SHOWS: NYC
48 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002
Painter Jason Stopa has put together a talentedgroup of painter-painters, the majority of whom are recent or soon-to-be MFA graduates. It hits on a certain doodley poetry and fresh-paint quality which has become a language of choice in many emerging painting shows.
Immediately in the entryway, many will recognize Joyce Pensato’s Punk Homer from her solo show “Batman Returns” last year at Friedrich Petzel. It stands out here as a black-and-white behemoth, but it loses context as one in a series of iterations of pop culture characters. Knowing that, though, I’m still glad to see it.
Likewise, many of the other works here would benefit from the context of solo shows for greater impact. At the moment, they read as experiments in visual language. Katherine Bradford’s “New Men” on the opposite wall, for example, looks like a close-up of a white table top with the words “NEW MEN” painted near the center of the canvas. If the painting were flipped upside down, the words would read the same. The visual word game feels similar to the kind of economy that’s common to Jack Strange and Dave Shrigley.
Titles are similarly playful, often used to enhance clunk, as in Polly Shindler’s “Dang Darn” and Austin Eddy’s “Freaky Deaky.” I imagine that Eddy’s paintings of primitive heads with corrugated cardboard mouths and eyes could use the Nicole Eisenman treatment of a few full walls.
Style is used as language, much like the way Mary Heilmann uses it; in fact, a few paintings seem to nod to her simple-to-make paring down of cultural iconography. Russell Tyler’s “lo-fi”, for instance, is comprised of a black rectangle of chunky paint layered over a grey grid. It does look lo-fi, and familiar, but you can’t place it. It’s not a TV, a microwave, or a really old Mac, but the shapes make you run down that list.
Trudy Benson’s big, beautiful “Monolith” magnetically drew people to the back of the gallery at the show opening. By now, its fresh mixture of neon accents on chromatic grey and strategic accents of spray paint is a familiar look for MFA shows. Sometimes it’s so pretty, you don’t care.
Many of the works, though, feel like “NEW MEN”—a phrase without the context to provide the punchline. I look forward to seeing what this group can do on their own.
RED LEFT BLUE RIGHT
338 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211
I have to admit, I was enticed by the fact that the curator and double triple designer Phillip Niemeyer is a friend. But c’mon— it’s hard not to enjoy a light-hearted show without any of the press release-ey apologizing. Some works really knocked it out of the park, like Mike Reddy’s figurative paintings, which work both in and out of 3-D (blue and red veins, for instance, turn black when you see them in the glasses), or James Blagden’s brink-of-insanity Britney Spears, whose bald head appears to vibrate in red and blue layers. I almost blew my wad on a poster of a immaculately-collaged psychedelic digital print by Tanya Newton-John— so. tempting.
Jonathan Allmaier, Pointing Paintings, Bump Paintings, and Key Paintings
55 Delancey Street, New York
Like the work at BOSI, Jonathan Allmaier’s using a sort of painting grammar-- but this time, the painting object itself is the part of speech. I’m not sure I fully understand the text that accompanies his work, but Allmaier has created a few different denotations which fall somewhere between scientific experiment and game.
A “pointing painting” draws attention to the stretcher. I assume this refers to paintings like the “counting pointing” painting “Untitled (6 Green Points),” a mostly-white painting with six small green brush marks and very visible stretcher rubbings.
A “bump painting” occurs when the painting “draw[s] on the stretcher and canvas,” which means that anything but a brush is used, and there are no outside references. This refers to “Untitled (3 Orange Pairs),” a big red and brown painting which Allmaier has painted with his hands, because it directly works with the paint and the surface, and because the indicated action is entirely contained within the canvas.
A “key painting” occurs when there is an outside object described, which therefore requires the use of a brush. This refers to paintings of hands, whose palms are colored-in with different primaries.
It’s the kind of thinking that can lead to a better understanding of what painting can do. Allmaier’s showing us different planes of meaning, from the painting tools to the physical world outside. Painting can signify things in different ways, the show seems to say, but you’re left to wonder why, and what.
Nikki Katsikas, The Old Gang
Louis B. James
143b Orchard St, New York.
Similarly, Nikki Katsikas gives us a set of examples without much of a conclusion. Katsikas ties seemingly-random imagery together through small, hobby-style paintings. References come from all over pop culture. We see TV and film: a snapshot of director Akira Kurosawa and his cast, the apartment from Seinfeld. There’s Americana, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton overlooking the White House Garden, or pioneers pushing a covered wagon through a prairie after dark. Some suggest decay, like killer whales poking their heads out of the Arctic ice, or a collapsing Victorian mansion. If the point about image saturation is made too often, Katsikas isn’t beating you up about it— this is more of the zen ambivalence than a crisis. You can pay attention to the melting icecaps today, or you can look at Seinfeld. In a culture which pays equal attention to both, it probably doesn’t matter. Not exactly a revelation, but it’s truth; you end up feeling ambivalent about the whole show.