November 10, 2007

Mark Greenwold's small-scale painterliness

Mark Greenwold: A Moment of True Feeling 1997-2007,” D C Moore Gallery, New York, NY. through Nov. 10 (today).

Mark Greenwold's tiny paintings, which he works and reworks, can take up to a year to complete. He says spending so much time looking at and thinking about a single work is a form of resistance against much contemporary painting, which he feels mostly emphasizes large scale gesture.

In The Brooklyn Rail, John Yau reports: "If other artists working in a highly comprehensive way, particular in the exploration of fantastical situations (Julie Heffernan or Scott Hess, for example), fall far short of Greenwold’s achievement, it’s because he is neither programmatic in what he does, nor is he interested in delivering messages to the viewer. For one thing, he isn’t just after images; he also can convey the nubby feel of a terrycloth bathrobe, the smoothness of patent leather shoes, the stiff curly hairs of a hirsute body, the soft spikiness of a cat’s fur, the fragility of insect wings and the hardness of their barbed legs. The combination of touch and sight is just one of the many disquieting pleasures his paintings offer. Despite his combinations of things both of this world and not of it, the paintings never devolve into any sort of literalism, metaphor, allegory, morality tale, social commentary, personal anecdote, or transcendent or uplifting moments. These scenes are loaded, but they are not—and this is especially true of the work of the past decade—stories. In fact, their resistance to assimilation is very much what they are about."

In the NYTimes, Roberta Smith reports: "The painting’s surfaces and abstract tangles provide respite from what Mr. Greenwold, in the catalog’s self-interview, aptly calls his art’s 'emotional cubism' (using the critic James Wood’s phrase). As the eye boomerangs from face to face, trying to make sense of things, the surfaces invite (and reward) a concentration very much like the one that created them. This small-scale painterliness, encountered where a pristine glasslike surface might be expected, keeps Mr. Greenwold’s art fresh, as does his sharpening of the tensions always at large in figurative painting. The point is that no art style or medium is ever over. It may be on life support or in remission, but resuscitation is always possible, often using techniques that are among the oldest in the books." Read more.

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