Saturday, March 1, 2014

Daniel Rich, Systematic Anarchy @ Peter Blum

Some very impressive and suffocating figurative painting of what looks like a restricted location, like evidence from a spy thriller. Paintings of ugly architecture that looks like it was the shining achievement of a pre-coup Africa government, what could be the inside of a nuclear reactor, a stairwell, a room with servers in it, a giant room of books, and a night view of a densely populated city. If the subject matter wasn’t suggestive enough, everything in the paintings are tightly cropped, leaving the eye very little breathing room. The exteriors allow for only a minimal amount of sky, and the trees at the base of the architecturally harsh building are almost shocking, as they are the only organic material in any of the paintings. It is a world of paranoia, shown in details that border on the obsessive, creating an image of the artist as a talented but troubled painter.

Apparently the subject matter is less threatening than it appears. The nuclear reactor is just the inside of a museum, and the room of books is an Amazon warehouse (which in a way is still pretty threatening). The evidential nature of the paintings might have something to do with the work being based on vernacular pictures found online. You might think detailed figurative paintings of vernacular pictures would be dull, but from a pure painterly aspect, when you get up close, details are often layered on top of details, making the detail appear to be physically lying on top of each other. Creating sharp edges in the image, as if they’ve been cut out of the painting. It was explained to me how he does it, I think it involves stencils. But visually it gives a pretty sexy physical depth to the painting that, combined with Rich’s wonderful use of color, makes the otherwise dry evidential pictures come to life. I still think the work is a little crazy, but in the best of ways.

Through Mar. 15th


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