Critics’ Picks

Cheyney Thompson,
Chromachrome 12 (5P/5YR) lozenge, 2009,
 oil on canvas, 
34 x 34".

New York

Cheyney Thompson

Andrew Kreps Gallery
537/535 W 22nd Street
May 2 - June 20

Cheyney Thompson’s fourth solo exhibition at Andrew Kreps Gallery, “Robert Macaire Chromachromes,” is as multilayered as the artist’s previous exhibitions and as evasive of any signature surface aesthetic. (His works differ notably from show to show.) Here, thirteen variously shaped canvases poke fun at traditional painting: One takes the shape of a diamond; another––long and ruler thin––slants up the wall at a forty-five-degree slope; meanwhile, a wide rectangle looms high above customary, eye-level view. Each canvas is primed stark white and detailed with rows of tiny, multicolored patterns. Although they appear wholly nonrepresentational, the paintings are in fact echoes of their own woven supports. As sources for these works, Thompson first digitally scanned sections of raw linen and then represented its light and dark values via complementary colors derived from the Albert H. Munsell color system. Through these colored dots, he offers speckled abstractions that are actually systematic, self-conscious works plumbing their own materiality.

Research into the show’s title will lead viewers deeper into a conceptual rabbit hole: “Robert Macaire” was also the title for a series of one hundred political cartoons by Honoré Daumier, published in the late 1830s, which satirized market-hungry businessmen by personifying them all as Robert Macaire, who was known in France at the time as an archetypal villain and swindler. While Thompson and Daumier share the common objective of satirizing cultural norms (whether painting or finance), Thompson’s elegant works seem to similarly—yet more subtly—examine the proverbial Macaires and real-life Madoffs that exist in all sectors of society.