Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Thomas DeBari reviews Tony Just
at Gavin Brown Enterprise
There were two types of work in the Tony Just show. The painting work was further divided into two categories. First was painting work from street posters ripped from their everyday context. Second were canvases with pop images in a “trapper-keeper” aesthetic. The work commanding the room was sculptures featuring break-dancers after Keith Harring and a few after Picasso.
The sculptures were painted to random effects. The idea of brings together someone like Harring, a king of free speech and the positive message in graffiti art, with community. Also he brought in outside monumental sculpture indoors on a smaller more manageable scale. Are they bootlegs? In appropriating from other artists, generational masters if you will, different approaches in application created a loss in cohesiveness. With that aside it must be the greatness of expression. The variation of culture, different aesthetics, envelop the same starting forms. This is the spirit of the high eighties.
Information not presented to you in the beginning of this exhibit was that the thirty something sculptures while all made by Tony Just were painted by other people during a party. Evidence of this cannot be found anywhere. Here is the disconnect though. It seems important to think about them as being completed in a painting party. Yet not stated the work is confusing. In doing such a varied degree of representation the work is all over and grasping anything is tough. Feeling overwhelmed and crowded by them you just want to dismiss them. I truly believe in the template of the work and the idea of people coming together and the quality of that experience. I think that by not announcing the sculptures as a reason for that event, belittles the magic of the moment. Also in knowing the people involved it feeds a like a wonderful idea of the artist community also present in the 80‘s. Also it mimics the Eighties community of Basquiat Scharf and Haring all on one block making work.
With and without information I foresee two conclusions one in which is positive the other is problematic. The problematic sculptures felt crazy with unresolved identity. The positive sculptures were a diversified field of self-expression. It sucks informational details matters this much. Polke loves it.
The street pieces were edited with paint to show in the moment of concision beauty of the everyday 21st century. Painted out and glazed over the surface a field of paper floated off the wall due to its crustiness. The information obscured was still there under the omitted of info. The edges contained the info that they were ripped down. Promoting the refinement of the work lets the work transcendence with the craft not being problematic. What he does now has a basic system aware of where it came from. That is now the strength of the work. This work also is just caught between the gallery and the street. Provocative, yes, but overall it suffered from the strength of the contextual cube.
The other painting pieces are of street culture. Text messaging and simple design formats dominate the work. Outsider informational pieces talking about aesthetics’ of pop culture. Neo-Expressionism, fluorescent color, and the small scale defined this work. All so diverse there were even cloud studies in pastel and a neon pastel reinvention of leopard print. I feel as if it was a throw back to Monet painting the factories in Paris or even still the moment in Vanilla Sky when “The Cruise Character’s” life becomes computer generated. Allover the work varied greatly. It was hard to grasp the obsession of this person. It felt like a conceptual distancing was done towards this Idea of expressionism. This distance feels like youthful agitation. Some sort of playful wonder at the contemporary culture. Puzzling jargon because of it being out of context, reaffirms the everyday by products of man being mutated. It’s attachment is to the techno based society we have become. Technology shapes and informs society changing us into mutated humans. The show is puzzling and uplifting.