In The Brooklyn Rail, Thomas Micchelli reviews Austin Thomas’s remarkable solo show at STOREFRONT, which closes this Sunday. “The installation, which is divided into four sections (‘Travel Diaries,’ ‘Studio Wall,’ ‘Sketches,’ and ‘Conversations’), has an immediate and ineffable charge, the kind that makes you take a step back and reconsider what you’re looking at. Most of the pieces are modest in size, humble in materials and self-effacing in effect. The one large work, ‘Round Placed Square’ (2010), is a hyper-busy collage that, but for a perfectly placed swatch of blankness, skates on the edge of disintegration like the paper maquettes for Frank Frank Stella’s Moby-Dick series. The rest of the show, which gives the impression of having been made from whatever scraps were at hand, has more in common with Richard Tuttle.
“But where Stella seems bent on invoking cosmic chaos and Tuttle exudes a laid-back scruffiness, Thomas conveys a quiet, confident serenity. This is one aspect of the spiritual uplift her work engenders. The other is the act of pure invention that each piece represents, and the meaning it lends to the question that, in one manifestation or another, constitutes the nub of contemporary art—how to harness randomness without becoming arbitrary.
“The various unit structures (to borrow a term from Cecil Taylor, which, in this case, feels entirely appropriate) that fill the installation are predominately made from shaped, folded, or crumpled paper that is printed, painted, scribbled upon, or drawn over. Thomas joins these disparate elements with such exactitude that they feel simultaneously antithetical and destined for each other, like star-crossed lovers. Their intermix of alienation, accident, and conciliation may not be all that different, conceptually speaking, from social sculpture, but these works are all consummately visual. You don’t want to stop looking.”
In City Arts, Mario Naves writes that stream-of-consciousness is what powers Thomas’s musings on the everyday, the systematic and the vagaries of memory. “The mind wanders and material attempts to catch up with it. That’s the conundrum and the charm….Imagine the precocious love child of Joseph Cornell and Sol Lewitt making origami in math class and you’ll get some idea of Thomas’ flighty, contradictory art….In the approximation of Thomas’ workspace, her scattershot delicacies take root, thrive and, ultimately, win us over.”
“Austin Thomas: Drawing on the Utopic,” STOREFRONT, Brooklyn, NY. Through Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010.
Also in the back room:
PORTRAITS, new work by Leslie Alexander, Deborah Brown, KK Kozik, Amy Lincoln, Rebecca Litt, Matthew Miller, Mira Schor, Peter Schroth, John Silvis, Mary Jane Ward, Brenda Zlamany, and others.
Studio Visit With Austin Thomas: Expanding Utopia
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