Reviews

Tony Greene at MAK Center

Los Angeles

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Tony Greene, Untitled (Ed), 1990, mixed media, 19½" x 22¼". COURTESY PETER NORTON

Tony Greene, Untitled (Ed), 1990, mixed media, 19½" x 22¼".

COURTESY PETER NORTON

his affecting survey of Tony Greene’s provocative paintings and mixed-media works is well served by its setting, a modern house designed in 1921 by Austrian architect Rudolf M. Schindler. Although the landmark epitomizes a quest for utopian domesticity while Greene’s work embodies the homoerotic desires of an artist who died of AIDS in 1990, the pairing evokes a powerful sense of longing.

The exhibition consists of 26 works made from 1987 to 1990. A literary tone emerges in the first room, where letters of the alphabet make up the central images of small wall pieces, and excerpts from books and poems have been engraved on brass plates. But the dominant force here and throughout the show is the emotional core underpinning Greene’s layered materials.

Under decorative surface images in mixed-media paintings lie disturbing found photographs of nude males, wild animals, and leafless trees, obscured by thick coats of amber or green glaze. Elsewhere, first names of men—Wes, Ed, and Matt—have been painted over photographs of men’s mouths. Their voices cannot be heard, but Greene makes clear his message about indifference to a public health disaster. In Through the Cracks (1987), he got down to its realities: just three years before his own death, he collaged onto terracotta tiles newspaper obituaries for 39 victims of AIDS.

A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 106.

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