Detours is an ongoing series in which a New York–based artist gives a tour of a show of his or her choosing. In this edition, Jackie Saccoccio, who opened the season with shows of new paintings at Eleven Rivington and Van Doren Waxter Gallery (both titled “Degree of Tilt”), discusses an exhibition of new work by Graham Collins, titled “Stadiums,” at the Journal Gallery in Williamsburg. Saccoccio’s show at Eleven Rivington closed on October 18. Her show at Van Doren Waxter is open through this Friday, October 23. “Graham Collins: Stadiums” closes on November 1.
In the past month, Jackie Saccoccio has noticed five artists using paint as what she calls “skin” in New York shows. “The surface is so separate from the painting or the structure,” she explained. In other words, it feels like the work’s surface could be detached from its support. There were Stephen Maine’s layered canvases at Hionas Gallery, Wayne Ngan’s ceramic vessels at Nathalie Karg Gallery, Dona Nelson’s ribbed paintings at Thomas Erben Gallery, Takuro Kawata’s melting clay objects at Salon 94 Freemans, and, finally, Graham Collins’s grand, paint-splattered works at the Journal Gallery, which we ended up visiting.
“I wish we had the whole day to see all of these things because I feel like they’re all compelling!” Saccoccio exclaimed, standing in the Journal’s hangar-like Williamsburg space. Although Saccoccio hadn’t been able to see too much art in the days before we met (she had been in Connecticut working on new paintings), she knew she had made the right decision by coming to Collins’s show. “I feel like the playfulness happens with the architecture that he’s creating,” she said. “I love what starts to happen here.”
We walked over to Evoque (2015), a mammoth above-ground pool that had been mounted to a wall. The pool’s inside now faced out toward viewers, and the faux-tile vinyl inside lining was slathered with mud-colored paint. “For me, I think about the book The Ice Storm and this idea of loss and failed dreams,” Saccoccio said. “Being this above-ground pool, it immediately takes you to these middle-class suburban neighborhoods and the sadness of when you see a storm or an ice floe. It just destroys this whole idea of summer fun. It’s the antithesis of that.” She called the work “Mike Kelley meets Gregory Crewdson.”
She continued, “For me, the paint on these, it kind of emphasizes the vinyl and the artificiality of this and then of this structure. It reminds you that these aren’t just pools taken from the suburbs. He’s made these into these sculptural, architectonic pieces. The paint on the vinyl is just a further reminder of that, for me.”
In her own practice, Saccoccio piles layers onto what she sees as abstract portraits, and some can have as many as 50 coats of paint. Collins also throws a lot of paint on his surfaces. Does she see a connection between between their work? “Not really,” she said. “I work with this round object in my painting”—she frequently represents her sitters as amorphous blobs of color—“so I set up a correlation between this piece [Evoque] and my piece, just as far as this mass that I’m going for.”
Saccoccio pointed to Ridgeline (2015), for which Collins quartered a pool. In the process, he slashed the vinyl, and threw on Pollock-like spatters of mint-green and white paint. “With a piece like this, I really like how the paint follows the gesture of the sculpture,” she said, referring to the way that the spatters mirror the arc of the vinyl. “It’s another layer that enhances that ripped, diagonal aspect of it. It’s sort of the violence of what happens with these.”
Collins also has on view several small Joseph Cornell–like vitrines. Each had a very defined color palette—emerald green, cerulean blue, butter yellow—and an object or two in it. “They seem anecdotal, to me,” she said, and promptly directed me back to another big work: Avalanche (2015), a semicircular cut of a pool that was as wider than a SUV. “There were a lot of people in the room at the opening,” she said. “I saw this from out there. This is terrific.”
“They’re really sculptural pieces, but he’s taking a lot of activity that happened in painting post-AbEx, like painting coming off the stretchers,” she added. “He’s really working with the coming-off-the-stretchers part, not the painting part. I think that’s sort of secondary.”
She led to me a smaller back room, where there are a few vitrines and two larger works. She wound up focusing on the latter. With its surreal, organic quality, X6 (2015) was the most obviously skin-like of the big painting-sculpture hybrids. Here, Collins took a pool’s vinyl, painted it blood-red, and slung it over a support structure as though it were an animal hide. Next to it was Mark LT (2015), a circular vinyl form that had been painted light purple and tethered to a wall.
Both pieces had an icky, uncomfortable quality, and Saccoccio compared them to Kelley’s work. “There’s this sort of milieu where everything looks fine on the outside, but there’s this dystopic future which does more than just seep through,” she said. “It permeates the sentiment. And by having everything be sort of fractured, the pieces, even the big ones like the one with the hole, are coming apart.”
Saccoccio told me that she could almost hear these works. “I really get a sense of the world that these come from,” she said, “that blaring TV, the noise of a backyard that someone’s taken a lot of care to make in this world, but then there’s also blaring traffic. When I see these, I can’t help but hear those types of sounds.”
“I don’t know,” she added. “Maybe I’m bringing too much romance into my interpretation.”