Saturday, April 15, 2017

Paul Gagner @ Allen and Eldridge

So, I often write about people I know and like, whose art I own and have curated. Paul Gagner fits all those disclaimers. But good damn, his new show is good. Over the last year or so, and most prominently at SPRING/BREAK Art Show, Paul has been showing paintings of fake self-help books for artists. The paintings are downright funny with titles and covers that take shots at the art world and the curious state of being inclined to make art. The work revels in a thick luxurious painting style that at times verges into the world of cartoons a la Philip Guston. My enjoyment of the book-cover paintings made me lose sight of the complexity and expanse of Paul’s work, which is on full display at Allen & Eldridge, James Fuentes’s project space in the basement of his main gallery. The current show focuses on Paul’s large figurative paintings of a disparate selection of subject matter that are laden with humor, like the self-portraits of the artist as a bunch of useable parts. But there is a mix in tone in the work, for example the self-portrait of the artist terrified, naked and huddled in the pale blue glow of a laptop. The work is probably best summed up in a painting of large meteor crushing a canvas and, in theory, the artist. The show speaks not just to our state of things but to a general and relatable dread and growing anxiety that makes up a large part of choosing to be an artist into adulthood. As loose as Paul’s work is, the lusciousness of his thick almost Play-Doh looking surfaces is quite enjoyable, and there is a level of visual excitement that I almost missed due to the paintings’ compelling content, in, say, the plant leaves in the painting of the person taking an iPhone picture of a plant or the meteor.

Already Down
Allen and Eldridge (55 Delancey St. (under James Fuentes Gallery) btw. Eldridge & Allen Sts.)


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