Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mary Ryan Gallery, 527 West 26st Josh Dorman: new paintings, Dec 3-Jan 23

Josh Dorman paints what I think can best be described as mixed media collage paintings. His paintings are done on antique maps that have been affixed to wooden panels. These maps are mostly obscured by the paint and other collage elements, but can still be identified as such. Those other elements are clippings of illustrations from a wide variety of sources, and consists of contrasting images of nature and industry coexisting in a wildly chaotic, Bosch-like universe. Dorman delicately interweaves the hand painted, and cut and glued images in a way where it's frequently hard to tell which is which.

There's one wall that contains about six unframed pencil drawings. These, while depicting some seemingly horrific events have a lighter, more spontaneous and doodle-like quality. They're consistent with the paintings, but are in some ways more successful. Maybe it's because they're more conventional in terms of materials, which makes the images more direct. Maybe it's because they're free of the wooden supports, which seems to me a little too heavy for Dorman's light handed treatment of the paper and paint.

While the relationship between the people, animals, buildings, machines, etc. that inhabit Dorman's paintings is very intriguing, the images are not really narrative driven. What I mean is that I don't feel the need to figure out the specific relationships of these elements, so much as to appreciate how they interact as a whole. That may be because the images work so well on an abstract level. It's the elegance in depiction of the images that also keeps them from seeming either labored or folksy. They seem to be both apocalyptic in nature and have a paper doll playfulness. Something of a cross between Pieter Bruegel and Terry Gilliam. But, what I find really interesting about his work is Dorman's ability to take so many intimate, fragmented images that function on a one to one level, and successfully tie them into a unified whole. It's a neat trick, and I'm not quite sure how he does it.

1 comment:

  1. Good review. I would like to go back to see it again.