Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Summer is irrevocably a time for diversion and good cheer, but how much escapism can be indulged in good conscience is relative to the times, and these are deeply troubled ones. DC Moore’s zingy group exhibition “ZIG ZAG ZIG,” on view through August 10, strikes a fine balance between the sunny seasonal mood and the dark standing reality.
Largely a painting show, “ZIG ZAG ZIG” features two of Didier William’s signature eye paintings, the larger one depicting a hulking mass confronting another one of a different nature (pictured at top) and the smaller one a pair of feet near the edge of a drop. There’s whimsy in both, but it’s tempered by an equally strong sense of dread, and the dominant figurative elements – composed as they are of outwardly looking eyes – seem intent on judging the viewer. William lets no one off the hook.
Chie Fueki’s jangled, freewheeling compositions encompass and to an extent obscure people who are exposed – on a bike, in a car, busking – and struggling to be seen or heard in a maelstrom or a cacophony. A suggestion arises that anonymity, while sometimes comforting, risks lack of acknowledgment and effective muteness. Alexi Worth explores a similar idea in three deceptively sedative paintings of transparent ballot boxes – one containing an abundance of donations, another about equally full of ballots themselves, but the box in the middle sparse with suggestions. On a different wall is another wrong-footing painting of a cherubic baby’s head that appears surreally unattached, secured only by surrounding hands.
Bridget Mullen’s three witty paintings incorporate a meta aspect into the proceedings. Perhaps the most on the nose among them is Abstraction is Inevitable– quaintly subversive in what is otherwise a resolutely figurative show – in which a (barely) discernible figure is twisted and distorted by various notional perils of the practical world. The cartoonish cast and the flash-and-spray-paint medium lends the painting jaunty humor, but there’s no getting around the mordant content. Ditto Reel Registers Register Real– conjuring, maybe, casual moviegoers in tears – and What Paintings Want– which could be a firm grip on something knowably valuable but ineffable.
Duane Michals’ three craftily engaging video pieces – by turns melodramatic (Interruptus), deadpan irreverent (Thrill), and self-consciously nerdy (Zip Zap Zip) – deal respectively with infidelity, seduction, and philosophical reflection, establishing a fitting set of tones and themes for the show overall. Doron Langberg’s quietly erotic paintings, for their part, ground the show with a kind of pastoral constant that affirms the release of summer, though mindfully. Capping off the show is Joyce Kozloff’s JEEZ, a busy, gargantuan map of Christological references, from the elegiac to the kitschy to the malign – the full range of comforts, trifles, and risks that religion and indeed institutions of all kinds hold out.
The bonus attraction, in the project space, is a compact but terrific show of drawings and works on paper called “Line Up.” Standouts include masterful pieces by Milton Avery, Romare Bearden, Edward Hopper, Franz Kline, Hilla Rebay, and George Tooker. Jacob Lawrence’s House in Italy – its drooping flower, bare lightbulb, and leaky ceiling juxtaposed with determined leisure-seekers – captures just about the right spirit.These buoyant yet discerning shows may be no day at the beach, but they are an eminently viable alternative.
“ZIG ZAG ZIG,” DC Moore, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through August 10, 2018. Artists include Duane Michals, Chie Fueki, Joyce Kozloff, Doron Langberg, Bridget Mullen, Didier William, and Alexi Worth.
“Line Up,” DC Moore, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through August 10, 2018. Artists include Milton Avery, Romare Bearden, Charles Burchfield, Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, David Driskell, Edward Hopper, Mark Innerst, Valerie Jaudon, Robert Kushner, Franz Kline, Jacob Lawrence, Whitfield Lovell, Nathan Oliveira, Katia Santibañez, Ben Shahn, Claire Sherman, Michael Stamm, Barbara Takenaga, George Tooker, and Darren Waterston.
Didier William: The unblinking eye
New subjectivity: Figurative painting at Pratt Manhattan Gallery
NY Times Art in Review: Tazeen Qayyum, John Wesley, Alexi Worth, Keltie Ferris, Trenton Doyle Hancock
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