November 16, 2007


I like being invited places. I'm still unknown enough as an art critic -- I'm still an amateur and all -- that I get excited when someone goes to the trouble to invite me to their show and I always try to go. It doesn't always work out, but I do always try. Jerry, Roberta, Peter, Charlie, I'm sure they get buried by so many invitations they just drop them right in the trash (certainly they've never shown up for anything I've invited them to), but hardly anyone asks me anywhere.

I think this is because I don't actually exist for other people unless I'm physically in the same room with them. As soon as I leave the room, I'm convinced, people forget I exist -- I vanish from their minds just as I vanish from their sight. I have no sticking power. That's what I think.

But contradicting that I was invited to Brooklyn to the Like the Spice Gallery by its director, Marisa Sage. Apparently David Gibson of Realform suggested that she invite me. Which I found really strange because I don't personally know David Gibson, meaning that for him, at least, I seem to exist even though I'm not in the same room with him. Cognitive dissonance!

So despite the fact that I rarely go to Brooklyn for any purpose, I slated Like the Spice for a visit. Also -- and this is important -- my wife's started working late on Thursdays so I was looking for an opening on another weeknight, and Like the Spice's opening was on a Friday. Thus Jason Bryant's show fit pefectly.

Jason Bryant, 2007

Jason Bryant, 2007.

Jason's show immediately presents itself as smooth. The paintings are smooth, the content is smooth, all the textures are smooth. Dirt, grit, brushstrokes, hairs, all hint of texture has been removed to the best of the artist's abilities. Even the subjects together form a smooth, regular series: People, from the bottom of their noses to just below their chests, over and over. Because everything is so uniform, so unvaried, the details that stand out are -- probably not purposely -- the aberrations. A few of the paintings show lapses of technique -- misformed lips, maybe, or an oddly rendered passage of flesh -- which are slight but glaring in this context. And the smaller oval black and white works -- listed as colored pencil but I'm certain I saw some gouache or ink in there -- are really striking because they are the least polished, most lively pieces. And Jason's handling of his media in them is much more assured than in the larger oil works, which struck me as somewhat immature.

I see echoes in his paintings, too, of both Eric White and James Rieck. Maybe not coincidentally the gallery has a Rieck in the basement. What Jason shares with James is a coolness, a distance from their subjects; also their processes are similar. Both start with tiny JPEGs they've found on the Web, making their final paintings partly photo-based and partly filled in by imagination -- they're realistic extrapolations. And both are interested in closely cropped images of people. James is more accomplished technically but Jason is clearly capable of working his way up there, if he keeps practicing.

A good question is whether or not he should. We have realists aplenty, especially vaguely ironic realists. Do we really need another one? I'd rather see Jason embrace the mistakes, the aberrations, and take the smoothness out of his style. I'd rather see him, instead, work with texture. Maybe make a mess. Play some more. I think there's playfulness in there -- you don't paint an Andy Warhol Rolling Stones jacket without some sense of fun -- but it's stymied by an over-literal reliance on smoothness and the boundaries of the chosen composition. If Jason can break out, make a connection with his subjects, maybe, and have some fun, his work could be, I think, really extraordinary.

Anna Druzcz, 2007

Anna Druzcz, 2007.

Any gallery looking to move product has a back room where they keep other work they're interested in selling. In the case of Like the Spice, their back room is their basement. Down there, in addition to the Rieck painting, I found a few works by one Anna Druzcz, and she blew me away.

I've gone on record any number of times claiming to dislike photography, or anyway saying I don't consider it art. I still don't. But Anna works within the realm of photography in a way I find really fantastic. Her works are hung inside welded steel frames and appear to be printed on metal themselves. In fact Marisa assured me they're C-prints made with a suspension with a high silver content, so they look like they're emulsions laid down on steel. The prints are made from digital composites of photos into poetic, phantasmagoric works of surprising power. In a sense these are just photo collages; but Anna has put the images through her own unique eye and created images that hang together as shattered wholes -- as if a landscape has been smashed and the pieces put back together and then photographed. Unlike most photographs, which tell us about the world, or which clearly relate to our world in some way, Anna's works create their own world.

Upstairs the regular old world continued on. Marisa and her assistant kept the music going, playing Madonna, Prince, and Michael Jackson. I talked with Jason for a few minutes and buttonholed Marisa for a while. I told her that sage isn't a spice, it's an herb, which a lot of people tell her, she said; she also noted that Like the Herb doesn't sound very good. She invited me to some more events in Brooklyn, trying to sell me on coming out there more often. It just might work.

Unless, of course, I don't actually exist.


I know David Gibson, and so does Oriane. He visited my studio last year, and recently invited me to join 'the crit group.' When a person Googles my name, your blog posts come up. Of course it's narcissistic of me to think that this is the reason you exist for him, but it's one possible connection.In any case, you exist for me even when I'm in Texas or Maine, usually because I remember something funny you said, and repeat it for a family member, to prove that I do, indeed, have worthwhile friends.

It's not that narcissistic, seeing as how on my blog's page on Technorati, your name is the biggest in the cloud of tags. And it is nice of you to say I exist, even though you're probably lying.

Waaait-a-minny-nutDid you just say (20 days ago):"I'm still unknown enough as an art critic -- I'm still an amateur and all. . . "?I think you have a future as an art critic. Do I owe you any money?What does it cost to make you a professional?

jesus christ-amateur+someone(like you) who uses"I" every other word-leave your fucking dull,depressing self out of it,and also your ugly,nerdy friend uglylady,and references to both your works ,which are not to be mentioned in the area of new york city-try florida.And don't refer to artists by their first names.

chris, you exist! give us another post!i must insist!don't give up the ghost!i'd be really pissed!oriane

David Gibson here. I must say you do exist. Your writing on the show at LTS is very good. FYI I changed the link for Realform, it's now http://articleprojects-realform. blogspot.comthe next show there opens Sat 4/26, "Fools for Lust: New Paintings by Mary Katherine Murphy" from 7-9 pm. Hope you can make it by!

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