Critics’ Picks

A God, 2004.

A God, 2004.

New York

Ashley Bickerton

Sonnabend Gallery
536 West 22nd Street
May 8–July 30, 2004

Defining for itself a singular existence on the borders between sculpture and painting, and between narrative and its disruption, Ashley Bickerton’s startling recent work is made on wooden pallets that curve away from the wall and are carved with holes that allude to the perforated ozone layer and suggest the work's own potential disintegration. Bickerton binds worn objects found on the beach—flip-flops, Budweiser cans, a Johnson’s baby powder container—to these painting/sculpture combines. Nature’s more gracious creations—driftwood and skulls—creep through the holes. These things, and the sickly renderings of skies and landscapes they jostle with, are a timely reminder of the precariousness of the ecosystem. Yet, not content with such a tidy critique, Bickerton works in other narratives of disruption, waste, and decay. In Completion, 2002, his own grinning countenance tops cartoon sperm struggling through soil printed with the names of his former lovers and encrusted with beer bottles and other tokens of youth; the bizarre deity in A God, 2004, holds in its eight hands status symbols of consumer society. In their complexity, Bickerton’s jumbled works are refreshing and daring, a welcome relief from the tired tropes to which New York has got used in his absence.