Alexander Ross can be an acquired taste. Balancing the weirdness of his subject matter and technique in this show, “Recent Terrestrials,” were some traditional painterly tricks that lent subtle formality to the compositions and served to manipulate our focus. An incidental-looking red mark on a face, for example, can interrupt our reading of an image and force us to reassess how and what we’re seeing, as when a monster head sticks its tongue out of a squishy blue face where its eye should be. We are challenged to investigate and respond—even if we don’t know to what and how.
Among the most charming pieces was a smallish crayon-on-paper composition (2014) that filled the sheet to the edges with a compressed head-as-landscape sporting a tongue and fangs and various other oddities.
The big canvases were more enigmatic-looking, like painting-sculpture hybrids. Ross creates them by molding plasticine, photographing the forms, and then thickly painting the images. In so doing, he adds layers of artistic and archeological distance.
Neither abstract nor figurative, three-dimensional nor two-dimensional, real nor recognizably imagined, these paintings were not-quite-but-almost kitsch, not anime, and not cartoons; they were closer to Bosch and not too distant from George Condo.
A version of this story originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 84.