When you walk into Freight+Volume Gallery in Chelsea, the first thing that hits you is the dusky scent of oil paint. In Kim Dorland’s newest works, the artist has used gobs and fistfulls of the stuff, gleefully glopping and smearing it into impastoed stallagtites. Think mashed potato sculpture from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind.’ Dorland proves that oil paint can become a sculptural, as well as pictorial, tool, and he’s not afraid to use it.
The natural landscape has long been a subject for artists to glorify and mystify, a metaphor for wildness, purity, strength, and even divinity. In contemporary times, landscape painters have both glorified and vilified the modifications to our natural surroundings, using this as a mirror for society’s march towards progress and/or doom. Dorland’s landscapes are compelling, but in none of these ways. Without being preachy or pedantic, Dorland walks the line between romanticizing the landscape and pointing out the hypocracy in doing so.
Let’s face it – most of us have grown up in urban or, worse, suburban landscapes, where the ‘idea’ of wilderness is compartmentalized and stumbling upon wild strawberries or a nest of baby raccoons is just as likely as discovering a stash of Penthouse magazines. Dorlands ‘Super! Natural!’ paintings create a sense of delight in artificial landscape ideals and mythology without compromising a contemporary and, sometimes, even cynical perspective. Dorland’s natural landscapes abound with neon colored sasquatches, glowing wildlife, as well as pornographic pictures and personal graffiti.
This newest body of work exudes a naughty insolence and a childlike glee, all desirable qualities in a painting. The largest paintings, which lumber above at heights of six feet or more, are most effective in drawing a viewer into a paradoxical world of humor, reverence, and silliness, where paint is applied like toothpaste to a canvas and handwritten graffiti tells us to “go away” and “fuck off.” These paintings work because they are consistent in their media and their message: ‘The World is Ridiculous’ these paintings shout. Maximal in size, color, density, and in narrative, Dorland presents a cohesive world that is believeable in its simultaneous extremes of attraction and revulsion. Whether this is candy-coated, furry, gloppy, tacky world is a good thing is definitely left up to the viewer.
Kim Dorland: Super! Natural! at Freight+Volume Gallery
542 West 24th Street / NY, NY