Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pierr Obando At Heskin Contemporary

"Noise," a solo exhibition of paintings by Pierre Obando, takes visual leftovers as its content; the jetsam and flotsam that gathers around the periphery of perception and generally gets filtered out in the process of cognition. The title of the show is a shortened adaptation of the term "white noise," which generally describes the sound of a radio tuned to a dead station. The work broadly divides itself into two groups (with "Gallo's Humor" being the one picture which veers off into another direction).

The color works ("Lumbar Tilt," and "Lumbar Tilt Study") use layers of dots that blend into an oddly photographic space, much like the coarse, overlapping dot screens that make up the four-color pictures reproduced in the newspaper. The figuration in these paintings at first seems like the time-honored grids and dots of late modernism, but turn into a big surprise when you find out the paintings are actually of gum on the sidewalk. Describing the pictures in this way may make them sound like a one-note joke, but they're not - the spatial tilt that happens when you realize that you're not looking at a grid, but at perspective, is jarring and continually interesting. It's a nice take on Hans Hofmann's push/pull phenomena, tied up with sly humor.

The pictures that really caught me were the "Ben-Day" dot paintings, which were essentially renderings of "Zipatone." "Zipatone" (and its rival, "Letratone") were the adhesive-backed dot screens used by newspaper cartoonists to create tone, and were rendered obsolete by the computer a long time ago. Besides the "leftover" aspect (the overarching theme of the show) there are a variety of layers to these deceptively simple, black and white pictures.

The moire patterns created by the overlapping grids relate to Op painting, but at the same time talk about the generally unwanted consequences of "Zipatone." A political cartoonist would never have used the material in this way for his published pieces, but the work area to the side of his drawing board would almost certainly look like the haphazard, layered arrangement in Obando's paintings. In a sense then, the pictures are oddly photorealistic renderings of the afore-described scene, which goes on to tie them to a concept seen in early Jasper Johns: making paintings of subjects whose flatness coincides with the two-dimensionality of the picture support. The pictures look simultaneously CG and old-fashioned, which makes for a strange and engaging dialectic, and I should also add to all this the simple fact that they are visually quite arresting - they require no such layer by layer analysis in order to be enjoyed, particularly the large "Sheet" (pictured above) in the opening gallery.

The show is up until October 18th, and I highly recommend it. Heskin Contemporary is located at 443 W 37th St. bet. 9th and 10th Ave. in New York City.