Critics’ Picks

View of “Regional Painting,” 2010.

New York

Christopher K. Ho

Winkleman Gallery
621 West 27th Street
November 18–December 23

Christopher K. Ho’s second solo exhibition, “Regional Painting,” emerges from the productive friction between the year the artist spent in a southwestern Colorado town and the fictional trajectory of “Hirsch E. P. Rothko,” an embittered Conceptual artist turned born-again painter. The show consists of twelve abstract paintings and Hirsch’s acerbic memoir (supposedly ghostwritten by one Inez Kruckev). Overall, it underscores an earnest attempt to carve out an alternative model of criticality by contending with the contemporary meaning of regionalism.

After dutifully ingesting all the “correct” critical texts, rubbing elbows with powerful people, teaching at a respected art academy . . . and still not seeing his career flourish in New York City, Rothko decamps to Colorado, lives in a shed covered with license plates, and discovers his passion for painting. Away from the commercial and critical framework of the metropolis, he realizes that regionalism is “not about a specific look or style” but operates from a “position alongside the main.” Regionalism’s “side-guard” status, which obeys neither the avant-garde’s imperative for newness nor the rear guard’s for unoriginality, opens up new options.

Judging from the caliber of the paintings and the memoir’s sophisticated register of discourse, Ho’s/Rothko’s conclusion is every “insider’s” escape fantasy. Yet, as Paul Gauguin, Marcel Duchamp, and Claude Lévi-Strauss have aptly shown us, the fabrication of such cultural myths and artistic personae has been crucial to the regeneration of intellectual and aesthetic production during modernism’s constitution and critique. Rather than assessing the truth status of such constructs, we need to ask why they appear at specific historical junctures and what artistic and institutional possibilities they might engender.