A bi-monthly collection of mixed reviews.
Cara Benedetto: Closer at Chapter Gallery
Using text in wall works is tricky, but Cara Benedetto has been around the block. Her solo show in the side room of Chapter Gallery is fun, even if it is confusing. HEr works consist of pictures of middle-aged female celebrities printed in low resolution and glued on shiny chrome boards are ornamented with text and framed with sharpie scribbles. The metallic shine is a nice contrast to the grainy pictures which are, in a somewhat tragic way, funny. “It’s really hard to fight with your own brain,” reads the text fronting a photograph of Jennifer Coolidge. Nearly everyone finds Coolidge to be funny and she is charming without question. Knowing that the artist is in the same age group as the women she has chosen to depict assures that the works are not a cynical joke made by a Gen-Z:er or a man. There is an element of inner humor here, or humility. I do not entirely understand the joke, yet I enjoy the happy colors and the glam. The decorated queue stand could be left out and no one would miss it.
Nancy Dwyer: How About Never? at Theta
Interestingly, the other female artist with a text-heavy solo show and a similar powerpoint video is from the same generation as Benedetto: Nancy Dwyer. Most paintings in the show are painted on a custom made panel, either a warped rectangle or a shape that is cut according to the text on it. These works float an expression in space, a thought, a shifting idea. Colorful but not loud, Dwyer’s suggestions provide a certain kind of clarity and playfulness. Her loop video shows the word “wannabe” in bubble font, turning slowly into “hasbeen.” Strangely, this simple word game, deflating past and future, ambition and anticlimax, is fun to look at, even for a long while. Dwyer’s paintings are made in an old school 80s fashion, celebrating skilled hand made typography and careful color choices. Similarly to Ruscha’s paintings, they make one think of many things and nothing at the same time.
Bob Tompson: So let us all be citizens at 52 Walker
Unlike with musicians—I am thinking here of the “27 Club,”—when a painter dies at a young age it is rarely a remarkable artist whose work leaves us deeply curious about what they could have brought to the world if they lived longer. The team at David Zwirner has found an exception: Bob Tompson, he died at twenty-eight. His show at 52 Walker is a world of rich colors and details with underlying melancholic undertones that at moments slipped my mind. The first thought that comes to mind when looking at the faceless, healthy bodied naked figures in Tompson’s paintings is utopia. True, the paintings are full of pleasure, be it the pleasure of swinging between two trees, holding a young child, or being tangled in an embrace. However, politics of being a Black individual in America resonates clearly in these works that portray pain and cruelty as much as affection and passion. Tompson does not follow the rules of figuration in his paintings. Gentle lines mark human facial features on an outline of a bird and most figures have a clear gender, but not all. His description of nature as well as man-made objects is lush, unexpected, and colorful in a way that is unexplainably touching, neither joyful nor sad, but simply vast in its sensitivity.