Now showing at Roxaboxen are the efforts of three young painters to walk the well-trodden but tempting path of depicting paradise in an up-to-date visual matrix—and my response can’t help but be filtered through my feelings about what has come to be a contemporary post-post-post-Impressionist academic landscape style. Examples range from romantic, gestural semi-abstract canvases by Claire Sherman and Angelina Gualdoni, both represented in Chicago by Kavi Gupta Gallery, and older and flashier contemporaries like David Thorpe and Laura Owens. The problem in the end is not that our age is especially philistine, but that living in an image glut makes old-timey beauty seem more attainable.
Lisa Nance is a solid designer in paint—her ability to carve out space by adroitly slapping slabs of light and shadow into a classical landscape or figure rendering are easy on the eyes, adequate to earn her a spot alongside the descendants of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud in the pages of New American Painting or Modern Painters magazine. Her attempts to create three-dimensional versions of natural splendor—one as a folding diorama, one as a shaped hanging panel with holes cut out—read as primarily decorative. There’s enough atmospheric color to titillate the cones, but in her hanging paintings there’s no physical relief to interfere with her confident portrayal of visual depth, or with her enjoyable surreal touches.
Andrew Fansler’s small works on paper, mixed-media orchestrations of geometric doodles and washy organic landscape elements, have a hard time commanding attention, although his large wall painting and assemblage, which takes advantage of one of the gallery’s charismatic nooks, approaches a Mardi-Gras mania worthy of Lari Pittman.
The strongest work in the show belongs to Jeremy Mitchell Pelt, owing partially to the artificial tree he set up to be continually misted with artificial tan spray in a corner vitrine. Pelt’s paintings unleash a welcome vomitous energy all over found pieces framed under glass; even his chromatic concentric diamond motifs, reminiscent of the dreaded God’s Eye, have some fraction of the bravura (if not the control) that I would attribute more readily to Turner or Sargent than to their legions of imitators. Deconstructed depictions of nature are still depictions of nature, it turns out, and art history can be more a burden than an excuse. (Bert Stabler)
Through July 21 at Roxaboxen Exhibitions, 2130 West 21st
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