Guest contributor Joshua Sevits / After paying what seemed like highway robbery for admission to the Armory Show and a bizarro salmon sandwich with coffee (black), I found some amazing paintings that are definitely worth sharing. Better late than never, right? For the ten pieces I selected, the unifying factor seems to be mystification. Sometimes a sense of confusion appears vital to the artists’ intent, but not always.
1. When I arrived, finding Leopard Skin Tights (image at top) by Toy Machine skateboard company founder Ed Templeton was a welcome surprise. Templeton’s caricatures of misfits and lowlifes always make me smile and are especially enjoyable when he focuses his attention on small naughty things like fingernails, trashy make-up, plastic bags and cigarettes. At Roberts & Tilton.
2. Vaguely landscape-ish abstract painting was everywhere, and I’m not one to complain. Clare Rojas’ Untitled presents a carefully measured balance of highly-saturated rock-monolith-like forms. The horizon line deviates from a straight line just enough to convey a sense ground in an otherwise straightforward composition. Ultimately, if the viewer isn’t invested in this sparse comparison of form and color, the resonance of the work is short-lived.
3. Frederico Herrera’s Untitled at Sies + Höke, is also close-to-landscape. The big triangle is actually raw canvas surrounded by highly-tinted pastoral colors. Herrera’s fuzzy, slightly bloated green shapes remind me that isometric geometry presents interesting limitations.
4. Christian Hidaka’s Three Peaks and Sun at Michel Rein exemplifies the charming contrast between trompe l’oeil and the physical reality of cut-and-pasted painted paper. The arrangement and color of all the elements are very pleasing, especially as the work connects to a larger, historically eastern sense of pictorial representation and taps into a very-now affinity for illustrative approaches.
5. Bernd Ribbeck’s exhibit with Galeria Casado Santapau was part of the Official Armory Selection. More isometric geometry! Ribbick’s painting reminds me of those new artificially “road worn” Fender guitars, but without the embarrassment. The surface, a mix of ballpoint pen, acrylic and marker, strongly references early Christian motifs. After spending some time with it, I hit a brick wall — the work failed to move me beyond the formal.
6. Elizabeth Glaessner’s Weeping Rock at PPOW features straight-up luscious wet-into-wet paint handling. At first glance, the tube-like jungle flora is the mystery and bones of the painting, but Glaessner also draws on the rich mythology of the Weeping Rock, from actual sites to science fiction.
7. Also at PPOW: Timothy Wehrle, Portrait of a Board I – III (III is pictured above). These spare assemblages confused me for a minute, because what we are looking at is a painting pasted on top of another painting. Don’t let the shadows fool you — they are actually painted. Each board portrait is expertly crafted, and I marveled at the sensorial aspect of the work — things just get silly. Yet, I feel confident that a viewer could throw most any metaphor at this work and it would stick. (Again isometric geometry!)
8. Holly Coulis’ luminous small painting at Cherry and Martin buzzes at the intersection of paint edges. The woman’s blank stare that penetrates a transparent vase is mystifying; is it funny or introspective? The implied narrative is elusive but the color and craft of the work holds my attention. I peeked into the storage closet and spotted a cache of her other paintings; I wish I could have seen them all.
9. Erika Verzutti’s Peacock is a bird of paradise past its prime. I suspect this sculpture commands a varied sense of presence based on how, and with what, it is arranged. Still shinning with iridescence, this old bird happily reminds me of jaunty Franz West’s sculptures. The paint brushes that crown the work make me wonder if a fanned paint brush provided the the impetus for Peacock.
10. I feel as if this painting, Untitled, by Wolfgang Betke, has something in common the Ribbeck work mentioned above, perhaps because of the commitment to scraping and/or sanding to remove paint. Betke conveys the various sensibilities and attitudes I recognized in all of my selections: affected abandonment, random metaphoric suggestions, and sensual surfaces.
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