As the in the above work, it is hot and wearing clothes is a bother. Our brains rebel against academic study–there will be enough of that come September– and under the heat dome our sensibilities start to cook, our ice cream melts as our tempers boil. That is to say, the artworks in this show are hot and bothered and a litlte bugged out. And so are we; we got to use the word “booby” in an exhibition title.
Works in this show take a flat approach to figuration (tho we couldn’t call the show “Flatlands” because the Whitney show just did) and this abuttment of shapes to produce the figure could produce slick results, but here is kinda wonky and off. Maja Djordjevic (b. 1990 Serbia) paints large oil paintings that look like quick Mac Paint sketch ups. The women have blue squares for eyes, a scribble of yellow for hair and a big jaggedy red mouth, always yelling. Though abject as anything I’ve ever seen, the paintings inexplicably have titles like the above piece, “Be Happy — I Love You”.
Similar in jagged effect are Caroline Wells Chandler (b. XXX) crocheted fabric works, evocatively titled “Cornholio Victory”, “Eggbert”, and “Lil Kathy G” (which I really hope is me.) Hot lined and neon spiced, your eye might be equally drawn to nipples and crotches. A pun perhaps? Crafty pixelation sounds like an oxymoron but these figures’ kicked up heels and triumphant arms convey a catchy exuberance that blankets all perplexity with psyched.
Misaki Kawai (b. 1978 Japan) gives us a hunting scene and a white water rafting scene, plus animals. These paintings come from a series of works that use matte medium to paste in areas of painted paper and fabric to make figures of creative skin tone and upended palette. Abstract brushy backgrounds down to meticulous detailed accountrements outfit her campers for some bizarro outdoor recreation.
Similar in Jim Nutt-iness is Melissa Brown (b. XXX) whose ladies look a bit slicker with flashe and oil on aluminum but also get bedazzled a bit with scratch-offs, silkscreen and gradients. She exhibits five females, busts, let’s say, and lets also say enigmatic. We think that is the intent, as one is titled “Mixed Messages”.
Joakim Ojanen (b. 1985 Sweden) exhibits two little creatures, from a cartooning realm but fussily shadowed and lit with little squiggly black or white paint lines. Tubular, lumpy, and duck-lipped the little guy “Looking / Hiding” may just be staring into his hands. The artist is known for beautiful glazed clay sculptures and the paintings look like they were composed in the same manner, a la Mr. Potato Head, a clay shape with some protuberances added on as needed.
Anders Oinonen (b. 1980 Toronto) flattens his light-filled faces until they are pretty much landscapes. By shifting slightly the hue of his paint or putting a soft wash over it to make it opaque, Oinonen carefully pulls out of the hills and rivers an eye and a mouth and sometimes more. The areas of color are what do it but mostly the varying opacity and brilliance of the tightly controlled oil paints make the works sing.
Lastly, Anja Salonen (b. finland 1990) literalizes the push between figuration and flatness by including both. Three fleshed out figures of blended oil paint doing what it does best sit in a flat landscape with a canvas draped over one of them on which a flat colored face is painted. Perhaps the most psychological work in the show–tho it has some competition in the “disturbed” department–the puzzlement on the foreground figure’s face just about covers it for me.
These flattened figures may not be flesh, hairy and sweaty but they do all carry some kind of intensity, some anxiety, exuberance. As sorta symbols of a human rather than a traditional figure painting, these bodies represent more than a fully-rendered human would. Maja’s paintings for example only barely look like a person, you wouldn’t see yourself in their skin, you wouldn’t think they had a name, they are interchangably undifferentiated. But their lack of personalized feelings make them more effective conduits for communicating feeling somehow; the inchoate screams and gunshots reverberate with me, convey to me a world that is out of control, howling and deranged.
Or maybe my brain is just fried.
“Fried.” That is a great summer group show title. Summer: when the world is fried.