In The Village Voice Robert Schuster writes that had Josh Dorman been born in the 17th century, he probably would have become one of those eccentrics who curated the Wunderkammers, the room-size collections of oddities taken from nature, science, and myth. “Aesthetically rooted in the past, Dorman is doing something similar in two dimensions, assembling found, antique images into marvelous collages of retro fantasy that suggest (as Dorman admits) Bruegel, Redon, and Chinese landscapes. On old U.S. Geological Survey maps, Dorman conjures new worlds based on the original locations. Careful in his progressions of color and shape, but never far from dreamed chaos, the artist inks backgrounds and textures, and layers dozens of items (often engravings) meticulously clipped from 19th-century miscellany.
“In ‘Thirty-Five Percent,’ a kind of madcap Darwinist vision, Dorman has surrounded the Pacific with monkeys, outmoded mechanical devices, and zoological imagery, all embedded in sinuously flowing topographies of jungles and mountains. In Versus, emphasizing the collection’s recurring dualism, a precarious pile of manmade things (devices, tools, architecture) stands across from a hill populated by animals and insects both odd and familiar. Like a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ puzzle, Dorman’s rich clutter keeps you searching for the next intriguing detail.”
In City Arts Mario Naves reports that Dorman’s new work has an welcome philosophical concentration. “It’s a spoiler’s game to pin-down the meaning of art as various (and fun) as this, but Dorman’s thoughts about the limits of human understanding are fairly patent. Pseudo-Biblical, pseudo-mythological, pseudo-Darwinian and uniformly wistful, Dorman’s art posits a cosmos where fact is forever embellished and sometimes hoodwinked by caprice. He may be more of a realist than we think.”
“Josh Dorman: New Paintings,” Mary Ryan, New York, NY. Through February 6.