Joanne Greenbaum : Hollywood Squares
September 10-October 31, 2009
D’Amelio Terras Gallery 525 w 22nd St
There could be said to exist a school of eccentric abstraction in New York that would include artists like Carroll Dunham, Tom Noskowski, Amy Sillman, Jane Fine, and the late Elizabeth Murray. Much of the visual instincts of this loose cohort can be seen in Joanne Greenbaum’s work. On the surface it’s friendly, energetic, edgy, hip and savvy. Its colors drift toward the day glow palette of sharpie markers, so it also exudes a pop feel. Like Terry Winters’ work over the past decade there is also an awareness of computer generated repetition, or at least the semblance of the image as endlessly reproduced and lit from behind. There is also the quality that these images were once smaller and were blown up in size to exude an intimate extroversion, similar to Noskowski’s work.
Ms. Greenbaum’s paintings evolve out of an additive scaffold of drawing that often resembles the nervous marginalia of a student’s notebook, an unconscious construction of a tangeraity of lines that assemble into loci of space grid hysterics. Onto and across these structures she finds areas to block and slash paint in repetitive gestures that form either voids that single out the previously laid lines of the under-drawing, or form vaguely figurative ‘personages’ a la David Smith’s drawings or early Pollock. Her paintings in this show almost all share a ragged vortex that splays the compositions like spin art.
When looking at these works I thought for the thousandth time that painting no longer has to make great pictures. The authority of the static image has been so incessantly undermined by the increasing tolerance for sophisticated time- based media to the extent that painting no longer functions as a rock of facture in that slipstream or slip-deluge of visual gloss. Painting is nothing to hang your hat on anymore. So I was impressed at the sense of recognition and comfort I got from this show. Perhaps it is in the playful, offhand way in which the artist assembles her image. Maybe it has to do with the multiple layers of lines and thick paint, which erase and reveal the doodles cast large. I think it is also because there is a rich pathos in these paintings, which might reside in the simple guilty pleasure of witnessing a pathetic human reflexive attempt to manage the void. These paintings are like banana peels on the verge of nothingness. It is an equivocal response to an arcane existential longing for fixedness or certainty. These paintings are philosophically flaky in a serious way. -Tom McGlynn