With a Hint of the Surreal
The paintings of Kevin Wixted on display at Lohin Geduld Gallery are rigorous in structure and restricted in pictorial motif-so much so that you can almost miss the metaphysical aspect. These City States (the title of Mr. Wixted’s exhibition) are built out of abutting columns of systematic incident-stripes,checkerboards, grids and trellis-like patterning-all arranged on the horizontal. The juxtaposition of elements is enlivened and in some cases made jarring by the scale, intensity and dissimilarity of the repeated patterns. Each form seems almost to elbow its way into being. Flat rectangles turn into chunky pillars, and they don’t just nudge and bump laterally-they shift back and forth. Syncopated and geometric, the pictures confirm the importance of continuity by constantly finding the means to interrupt it.
Mr. Wixted alludes-perhaps too obviously-to architecture: He doesn’t need a title like Blonde Gotham to underscore a painting’s debt to the Manhattan skyline. What’s less obvious, and more gratifying, is the work’s uncanny tranquillity, its airlessness and remove. A hint of the surreal elevates what might otherwise be craftwork-my complaint about Mr. Wixted’s previous work. The new paintings are related to Giorgio de Chirico’s skewed dreamscapes and Giorgio Morandi’s tenuous and tender depictions of studio bric-a-brac.
Mr. Wixted’s buttery surfaces are spare and luscious, the deckled edges around each shape irresistible and the palette notably various; the weathered look of the colors adds a patina of history. Duomo Rosso (2003) is the most handsome and diligent of these paintings; City (2004) the most charming; and the rest come close enough to hitting the mark.
Kevin Wixted: City States is at the Lohin Geduld Gallery, 531 West 25th Street, until March 28.
You can’t argue with an artist’s choice of material: If the art is any good, the choice will seem organic and inevitable, beyond dispute.
The frustrating thing about the recent sculptures of Mia Westerlund Roosen, on display at Lennon, Weinberg Inc., is that the material used-concrete-neither agrees nor quarrels with the motif, a darkly comical brand of biomorphism that partakes equally of the botanical, the primordial and the extraterrestrial. The strenuous effort Ms. Roosen has made to shape each piece is more apparent than one might wish. And yet concrete seems a promising material all the same: The idea that icky, egg-bearing aliens should be given a Mt. Rushmore permanence is appealingly absurd.
In the meantime, as a draftsman, the artist sings: Her deft and nuanced drawings give life and flesh to her bizarre and lumpish creatures. When she connects with concrete the way she does with charcoal, Ms. Roosen will be unstoppable-and so will her work.
Mia Westerlund Roosen: Namesake; New Sculptures and Drawings is at Lennon, Weinberg Inc., 560 Broadway, Suite 308, until April 3.
Home on the Range
How the painter Maryam Amiryani, an Iranian-born émigré from Paris who graduated from both Georgetown University and the New York Academy of Art, came to settle in Marfa, Tex., has to be an interesting story. It’s made more interesting-at least to my mind-by the fact that Marfa is the home of the Chinati Foundation, the artistic utopian outpost established by the Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd (1928-1994).
ThoughMs. Amir-yani’s small, still-life pictures are spare in composition, her connection to the Judd aesthetic is purely geographical. She’s a traditionalist, unabashedly embracing the values of art (to name just two: illusion and composition)
that Judd based his career on refuting. You can’t help but wonder what Ms. Amiryani makes of her situation. She no doubt appreciates the irony, as lonely and huge as the Texas desert. But to judge by her paintings at George Billis Gallery, the Southwest suits her to a T.
Ms.Maryami paints what’saroundher: yuccapods,wild flowers and indigenous fruits (with the oddball item-false eyelashes, a toy rooster-thrown in for variety). Claiming Georgia O’Keeffe as her inspiration, Ms. Maryami has a leg up on precedent: She knows how to paint. Her feel for the viscosity, weight and metaphorical capacity of oils is sure. When she aims for straight representation-which she does most of the time-the staid Ms. Maryami settles for comely-bordering-on-forgettable. She asks for more in Wildflowers , Three Roses and Yucca Plant (all from 2004), not only in terms of surface (which shows signs of wear and tear), but in terms of temper. Introspective and somewhat gloomy, they suggest that the painter is looking for the animating truth behind the world of appearances. Yucca Plant , in particular, goes the distance, embodying a spiritual need without giving up its decorative lilt. If Ms. Amiryani continues to build on that kind of mystery and painterly risk, Donald Judd could well turn out to be the second artist we think of when we hear the name Marfa.
Maryam Amiryani is at the George Billis Gallery, 511 West 25th Street, until April 3.