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Love Tap at Current Space reviewed by Ryan Syrell

It’s essentially impossible to extract painting from its perpetually history-laden context. Every painter is both a historian and commentator on contemporary culture, and it is precisely this formula which allows painting to persist in its relevance. Visual elements are revisited and recontextualized endlessly, to the point that graphic quotation becomes second nature.

Perhaps there are a limited amount of lasting images in the world, but painting helps to remind us that our experiences, and their articulation, can begin to approach limitlessness. Suffice to say it takes time to develop one’s personal painting vocabulary.

Love Tap, on view at Current Space, showcases the recent work of three young painters Louis Fratino, Michael Uckotter, and Win Shanokprasith. The artists’ shared point of departure is cartooning, which at this point is essentially an orthodox tradition: countless artists are informed by cartooning, and much cartoon-based work doesn’t get beyond formal superficialities. Fortunately, the work in Love Tap pushes further.

Bathers In the...Whoops!_Shanokprasith
Bathers In the…Whoops! by Win Shanokprasith

Win Shanokprasith‘s paintings are uniformly layered and dense, playful in their use of overlapping and coincidental edges, and figure/ground relationships. They are populated with fragmentary human figures and portraits, floating texts, painted frames, water droplets, and plant silhouettes that are just a little too bloopy to be Matisse cutouts. The paintings develop a cohesive weirdness, meshing the artist’s formal puzzles with hints of narrative action. In a sense, they’re the most literary pieces in the show.

Cold Winter_Shanokprasith
Cold Winter by Win Shanokprasith

One of Shanokprasith’s larger canvases, Cold Winter, works like a novella by Adolfo Bioy Casares. The painting alters with each successive viewing; details emerge, shift, and are obscured, only to reappear later in new relationships and contexts. This painting takes advantage of the way in which the mind archives abstracted visual data.

Louis Fratino executes figurative compositions with an impressive command of style. Dispersed evenly throughout Current’s main gallery, on walls that aren’t always conducive to smaller works, his four pieces helped to anchor the show visually. These are certainly the fastest paintings in the exhibition, not in the sense of a quick execution, but in the speed at which the viewer registers them. I get the sense that Fratino will eventually get his hands on what Alex Katz refers to as a “big technique.”

Disaster After Jesse Wong's Kitchen by Fratino
Disaster After Jesse Wong’s Kitchen by Louis Fratino

That being said, after repeated viewings of Disaster After Jesse Wong’s Kitchen, I found the objects and setting to be Fratino’s strongest players. Taken on their own, I think they are capable of achieving a more lasting poignancy than the obvious narrative drama that frames them. For example, Fratino’s crumpled constellation of Trident wrappers abandoned amid cups, untouched by the light of the A/C dial are beautiful and absurd. They are precisely the sort of innocuous detail that we lock onto with crystalline focus in the irrationality of our moments of duress.

A Materialistic Encounter by Uckotter
A Materialistic Encounter by Michael Uckotter
Playing against the narrative and dramatic tensions found in Shanoksprasith’s and Fratino’s paintings are the mixed media works of Michael Uckotter. In both concept and execution Uckotter’s wildy erratic paper pieces are the most material-driven objects in the show. At their cartooniest, they display a wealth of elbows, eyeballs, and phalanges. Beyond this plenitude of bulbous anatomy, however, these sheets of paper are treated as a series of zones to be aggressively differentiated by the interactions of disparate materials and scratchy brushwork.
Spiritual Encounter by Michael Uckotter
Spiritual Encounter by Michael Uckotter

A Materialistic Encounter and Spiritual Encounter are perhaps Uckotter’s most engaging compositions. These paintings depict loose arrangements of studio detritus: cardboard, tape, paper scraps. Their accretions of marks translate into a series of highly articulated differences, as though there were a compulsive need to make attributes of the presented surfaces as distinct from one another as possible.

The poet Frank O’Hara observed the commonality of painters’ inclination toward paradox, and I would add that this predilection for mutual contradictions keeps painting exciting and worthy of discussion.  Although each maintains their own idiosyncratic handling of medium and content in Love Tap, Fratino, Uckotter and Shanokprasith are all rooting around in the same fertile field of ambiguities. This is an exciting stage to observe in any young painter’s work, let alone three who contribute to a shared dialogue.

The most compelling part of this show is the assertiveness of each painter’s methods. Most works succeed in unifying process and content in intriguing ways, and even when something misses, it does so in the best way: unapologetically and with style.

Author Ryan Syrell is a Baltimore based artist.

Love Tap will be on exhibit at Current space through September 27, 2014

* Featured Image at the top: On The Rocks and Pineapple Soldier by Win Shanokprasith

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