Galerie Buchholz | Berlin
April 28 - July 29
There’s something unsettling about freshly made, nearly Photorealist paintings in a contemporary art gallery. These days, it seems a truism that such painstaking renderings risk artistic obsolescence, if not cultural conservatism. Caleb Considine’s exhibition of small oil paintings featuring fastidiously depicted objects and visages, eggshell smooth factures, and faintly limned outlines, impassively court this judgment. In Trestle (all works cited, 2017), the girders of a train bridge cut steep angles across a canvas. The bleached green iron is streaked with rust and draws attention to shadows receding toward a sky-blue plywood wall.
To some, the artist’s work might seem like an obsequious appeal to middlebrow taste. Fortunately, his aberrant devotion to technique, combined with the almost aggressive banality of his subjects, produces a fascinating, repellent steeliness. A haunting vacancy (mostly) saves Considine’s images from the abyss of populism. To look at Whitney (profile) is to feel an uncomfortable tugging sensation in the upper chest—the model’s posture and subtly exaggerated features seem to convert her into a hollow icon. The painter’s weakness lies close to the effects of his technique—under his brush, women are suspended in a cliché melancholy, between vacuity and contemplation. A similar coolness hangs over Uzumaki/Jarritos, an image of stacked books dominated by white, except for patches of color emitted by yellowed pages, the book jackets, and a nearby soda bottle. At their best, such pictures occupy the overlap between real experience and eerie simulacrum.