New York

"Zombie Formalism, 1970-2016"

Mitchell Algus Gallery

135 Delancey Street, 2nd Floor

October 29, 2016 - December 22, 2016

At opening of Zombie Formalism; Mitchell Algus; 1970-2016

This small, scrappy group show plants a seed that may grow, dignifying the current snark for jejune abstract painting. A statement - "art with a diversely uniform look, manifest in rule-bound yet random outcomes" - dates the tendency to the early ninteen-seventies, when it flourished briefly under the label of lyrical abstraction. Earnestly pleasant works from back then by the likes of Jeff Way and Carol Haerer commune with new ones by such young guns as Whitney Claflin and Julia Rommel. Spin paintings from 1986 by Walter Robinson, the snarker-in-chief who coined the titular epithet, preside.

 The New Yorker

“Zombie Formalism, 1970–2016” is a group exhibition that switches out Clement Greenberg for Roger Corman and skewers the work of all those (mostly) hot young dudes of recent vintage who’ve made process-based abstraction so insufferable. Mark Prent’s morbidly hilarious sculptures of desiccated, flesh-hungry creatures, His Final Statement and Five Stuffed Crows (both 1970), reimagine aesthetics as a horror show and artistic production as brain-eating. They also broaden the much-maligned term under which these pieces are being shown, helpfully putrefying notions of fashion and market cool.

Nods to this stripe of making’s sleekness and chicness, however, are here, but they’re decades old: Boyd Rice’s diamond-shaped swath of enamel-sprayed cotton that looks almost photographic, Untitled, 1975, and Jeff Way’s psychedelically striated Untitled (Red-Green), 1971, are juxtaposed with more recent iterations of zombie styling, cleverly perverting what could be mistaken as an exhibition of homages to something more incestuous, necrophilic, interesting. Megan Marrin’s juicy rendering of a corpse flower, Those three days (titan arum), 2015, imprints itself quite indelibly upon the mind. Her take on large-scale Photorealism is shot through with a Novalisesque romanticism that revels in the erotics of absurd phallocentrism.

The younger generation’s works on display are not critical of zombie art. And they certainly aren’t dismissive of their senior peers, either. Here, many queer minds gather together to inhabit all kinds of worlds—idiosyncratic, camp, and hallucinatory—in ways that your typical walking-dead crapstractionist could never imagine.

Nicholas Chittenden Morgan