While walking through the university district in Munich during mid-December, I passed by a small pigment store on Barer Strasse. It looked unusual at first glance, so I returned again to look more closely. The store was small and narrow and the front window was lined with small vials of powdered paint pigments, placed in a consistent rainbow-like order. Boris Groys’ suggestion of grinding up the paintings of great masters into small vials immediately came to mind. But had painting truly reached its end with the internet, technology and the unending appropriation process? A handful of shows that appeared in New York during the Fall of 2011 suggest that painting is on the rise again.
Lisa Yuskavage presented seven new, large-scale paintings at the David Zwirner Gallery that posed a solid metaphor between the erotic, feminine nude and the surface of the undisturbed wild landscape. While oil-painted playboy nudes are the artist’s signature, her previous paintings articulated representations of nature as nothing other than a prop, much like the artificial scrim used in a photographer’s studio. Yuskavage’s new paintings, however, draw more heavily from the history of Northern Renaissance landscape painting, particularly Peter Breughel and Hieronymous Bosch, while rendering forms that echo repeatedly with the colorful, empty and unpredictable terrain. Moving into the back of our minds, Yuskavage has finally found the way to play with potent, dreamy desires.
In October Allison Shulnik’s solo show Mound captured paintings as intensely built-up surfaces and stand-alone ceramic objects. Gothic clowns, hollow-eyed cats and flowers struggled through a dense, caked-up environment that satisfied the desire of excess. Shulnik’s juxtaposition of the painterly aspect of clay with that of oil on linen emphasized paintings as objects that transport, as icons of expression. Tom LaDuke’s show titled Eyes for Voice at CRG Gallery went a step further and turned oil painting into fragile sculpted objects. Duke’s mixture of the oil medium with superglue rendered three-dimensional representations that were completely decorative and non-usable, even though the artist left the suggestion of function there. Together Yuskavage, Shulnik and LaDuke renew painting as an arena full of unexpected possibilities.
Jill Conner is an art critic and curator based in New York City. She is currently the New York Editor for Whitehot Magazine and writes for other publications such as Afterimage, ArtUS, Sculpture and Art in America. firstname.lastname@example.org
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