This exhibition of mostly new paintings by Nikolas Gambaroff, Michael Krebber, R. H. Quaytman, and Blake Rayne, raises colorful questions about the past present, and future of painting. Thomas Duncan, Steinar Sekkingstad and Solveig Øvstebø organized the exhibition as a team and the resulting framework is a set of loose associations rather than a specific claim about painting today.
Quaytman’s “Beard, Chapter 19” (2010) is a series of 10 paintings on wood, combine oil or acrylic with silk-screened prints of photographs or shapes, each foregrounding a different element and featuring a figure from her circle of friends. Here, the nude backside of a slim figure is silk-screened onto five of the wood panels with beveled edges that make-up the series. One work synthesizes nearly all of the series’ elements: a third of the human-sized board is covered by the screen-print of “Beard,” while trapezoidal form, rendered in red ink and resembling a window, comes into proper perspective only when viewed from an angle. Two images of the edge of the wood panel are copied onto its surface, bisecting the painting laterally. This is a visual cue pointing to the way the work will be seen in the future—from the side, on a storage rack with its edge facing out.
Similarly, the interplay between personal and official art histories is a crucial component of Krebber’s work. In the first room of the exhibition, three smashed neons lie in their crates on the floor. One reads “Die Hundejahre sind vorbei” (“The Dog Years Are Over”), referring no doubt to the artist’s apprenticeship under Martin Kippenberger, and the latter’s 1987 exhibition, “Broken Neon.” His past is present in the space, but put to rest in a coffin-like crate. In a suite of six paintings Krebber demonstrates his transformation from protégé to pedagogue. Over retro French comic strips he’s handwritten, “What he meant was the institution of painting, that’s an important point, the institution of paintig , and he very soon was applying that to.” Snippets of information re-circulate, out of context, creating a web of absurd connections.
Rayne’s paintings share with Quaytman’s and Krebber’s a visible unease about the position of painting today. Linen dyed in saturated purpless, burnt orange, muted magenta and a sickly grassy green form the ground for blots of equally intense silk-screen ink—the result of Rayne literally “throwing in the towel.” Party streamers laser-cut into a Rorschach-like pattern are draped over the stretched canvases, signaling the party over before we’ve arrived. Rayne makes enticing images in colors and patterns that demand attention—his reservations about the medium only arise in ornamental strategies, like the towel and the Rorschach print.
Even in this company, the objecthood of Gambaroff’s paintings is pronounced. The artist treats stretched canvases layered with newsprint and wave-like script or comic-y explosive shapes in thick paint as elements in assemblages, alongside old office furniture. Almost a Palendrome (2010) has three distinct layers. The base is a wood and metal radiator cover, on top of which dozens of coffee mugs are printed with wave-like script or cartoonish blast. Resting atop the mugs, four canvases form a rectangular prism. On one the blast pattern is printed in pink, lime green, purple and back ink; another is left blank, a pale purple sheet of paper printed with the signature scribble is taped to the frame. The canvases are commensurate with the other furniture comprising the work, as the title suggests. In this body of work Gambaroff’s questions about painting are focused on its role as a commodity rather than its relation to a particular art history. In this way, he is closer to Rayne than Quaytman or Krebber.