June 12, 2009

NY Times Art in Review: Verne Dawson, Karl Haendel

"Verne Dawson," Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, NY. Through June 20. Ken Johnson reports: A popular strain of contemporary painting combines goofy, juvenile imagery — pirates, exotic animals, fairy-tale characters — with lush, sophisticated painting. Judith Linhares and Dana Schutz are good examples. Verne Dawson is another. In addition to small, deft, loosely painted pictures of birds on tree branches and wires and a landscape with Goldilocks and the Three Bears in the distance, Mr. Dawson’s ninth New York solo features three big paintings made with a generous, brushy touch on toothy canvas and depicting scenes from the story of Jonah and the Whale....Hanging with the Jonah works is a small painting unlike anything else in the show: it hints at what the story means to Mr. Dawson. “A Few Moments,” a hallucinatory, semiabstract composition of bulging eyes, flowers, sky and various unidentifiable elements, makes Jonah’s adventure seem like a metaphor about a kind of mind-altering, soul-transforming experience. You wonder what greater depths Mr. Dawson might go on to fathom.

Verne Dawson, "Jonah and the Whale (Overboard)," 2009
oil on canvas, 108 x 100 inches
Verne Dawson, "A Few Moments," 2009
oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches

"Karl Haendel: How to Have a Socially Responsible Orgasm and Other Life Lessons," Harris Lieberman, New York, NY. Through June 20. Ken Johnson reports: Karl Haendel is a drawing machine. He has filled this gallery with more works of graphite on paper in more different styles and dimensions — from letter-size to near-mural scale — than you’d think any one person could be capable of. Yet it all comes together as one big installation that meditates on the perilous state of the planet.... Impressive as the exhibition is, in pieces and in toto, all that gray graphite can be a little tiring. Two words for Mr. Haendel: colored pencils.

Karl Haendel, installation view.

Read the entire "Art in Review" column here.