Critics’ Picks

Brandi Twilley, Christmas Tree, 2015, oil on canvas, 32 x 56''.

Brandi Twilley, Christmas Tree, 2015, oil on canvas, 32 x 56''.

New York

Brandi Twilley

Sargent's Daughters
179 East Broadway Ground Floor
July 26–August 26, 2016

Two glowing television sets play different channels, illuminating the fluorescent green faces of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles printed on a bedspread. Rain buckets wait on messy floors beneath water-damaged acoustic ceiling tiles; clothes burst from dresser drawers; and mass-produced art—a scene of fiery fall foliage, a ship in rough seas—hangs on the walls. These are some of the poignant, portentous details captured by Brandi Twilley’s beautiful, moody oil paintings in “The Living Room.” With each medium-size horizontal canvas, she offers a different view of the same titular space, where one (and then, later, maybe two) children sleep. We never see the people who live here, though. The passage of time is marked by sundry changes, such as the addition of a pulled-out trundle bed or holiday decorations. Multicolored globes on a starless tree reflect the scant light of the cluttered interior in Christmas Tree, 2015.

Three breathtaking paintings show the room on fire. Bright white and gold flames leap up from the floor and bed in Fire and TV, 2016. A gap in the blaze shows us a dark, forlorn television up against a far wall—it cannot be rescued. Twilley’s images of fire are rendered with urgency, and these moments of smeary Impressionism provide a compelling counterpoint to the otherwise lucid, semirealistic style of her domestic inventories. The show’s subject matter, not surprisingly, is very personal. When the artist was sixteen, in 1999, her childhood home burned down. “The Living Room” is a speculative re-creation of that lost space, synthesized from Google searches, surviving Polaroids, and memory. Twilley’s searching hand, an alternately softening and sharpening filter, makes this show feel uniquely truthful—an unfixed and incomplete account of an era and place, the result of a singularly rigorous and melancholy process.