Saturday, October 9, 2010


Blond Natalia in Studio Arrangement
2010, oil on linen, 44×48 in., 112×122 cm.

 Whether or not they actively subsume sexuality under the weight of calculated conceptual concerns, the formats of many media favored by contemporary artists tend towards disrupting acts of voyeurism. British artist Sarah Lucas’s jury-rigged assemblages investigate its seedy socio-economic complexities. A.K. Burns and A.L. Steiner’s collaborative, performance-driven videos reformulate the paradigms of its mediation to emphasize its role in community formation. Defused by the enforced deadpan of their documentary sensibilities, it never rises to the glossy surfaces of Mona Kuhn’s at once bared and barren photographs.

By contrast, Kent Williams’ current paintings and drawings derive much of their potency from exemplifying figurative painting’s alluring tactility and coincidental ties to the long history of eroticized representation. Though tempered by comparison, the artist’s stylistic extravagance – manifest in expressionistically smeared, splattered, and abraded paint handling – calls to mind Cecily Brown’s fluent foregrounding of oil’s in-the-flesh immediacy and the cunning ease with which obfuscatory gestures can suggest sexual frisson.

Perhaps the show’s cynosure, “Blonde Natalia in Studio Arrangement”revels in the risqué, if also knowingly retardataire, associations of studio practice. Rendered in a flurry of writhing strokes of oil on linen, its physically idealized (i.e., sexually objectified) male and female models writhe in independent ecstasies against a backdrop of paint cans and orange extension cables – the latter an explicit reminder of the erotic currents snaking through the composition’s literal and figurative middle ground. Indulgent, irresponsible, and wickedly immediate, the painting – suitably representative of the majority of works on view – largely ignores the continuing crisis of representation. Williams’ willful indifference to such intellectual conceits serves to make it sexier.

Alex Ross, Visual Art Source, Oct 2010, Kent Williams at Evoke Contemporary, Santa Fe, New Mexico