Critics’ Picks

View of “Anne-Lise Coste,” 2013.

View of “Anne-Lise Coste,” 2013.

New York

Anne-Lise Coste

Eleven Rivington
11 Rivington Street
June 20–August 9, 2013

Anne-Lise Coste reiterates the humanistic thrust of Picasso’s Guernica in a series of twelve large airbrushed canvases. Coste carries the stylization of Picasso’s figures directly over to her own paintings, retaining an unequivocal anguish while incorporating a delicate, yet ultimately mechanical and manic, touch.

Les Grands Pieds (The Big Feet), and Le Cri III (The Cry), both 2012, employ a conceptual logic found in Coste’s previous work where letters and words fluctuate between graphic and textual legibility within the same visual field; in these works, she often draws on the French first person singular, Je (I). Here, the pronoun has been replaced with motifs from Picasso’s work including swarms of eyes as well as the “eye” of Guernica, the radiating lightbulb at the top of the work, effectively punning on the division between language and image. Moreover, the pun exploits an ambiguity in the gray area where icon and sign, seeing and reading, meet.

Which is why, DON’T, 2013, an eleven-by-fourteen-inch white canvas with the contraction “DON’T” hand airbrushed across its upper portion, seems an outlier. It’s the smallest work and the only one that doesn’t replicate Guernica. The unfinished imperative subtly declares more about Coste’s intentions regarding her restaging of Guernica than her paintings themselves. If anything, her choice of contraction speaks to the precariousness of the project, a self-conscious assessment of the artist’s own obsession. By reappropriating a painting famously built from appropriation and willfully incorporating the first person singular—whether through iconographic or semantic means—Coste embeds herself in a labyrinth of history. That said, there is a slight pun here as well: Personal adjectives are anonymous and appropriation can be the safest means of expression.