Critics’ Picks

View of “Mark Flood,” 2014.

View of “Mark Flood,” 2014.

St. Louis

Mark Flood

Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
3750 Washington Blvd.
September 5, 2014–January 3, 2015

Mark Flood’s first solo museum exhibition coheres around ideas of trickery—political, financial, and artistic—and performs its own trick by aligning the artist’s anticapitalist pose with his trompe l’oeil painting chops. This show also includes one sculpture, a readymade missile suspended from the ceiling and stenciled KILL PEOPLE. Surrounding this literal bombshell are thirteen paintings, one a triptych, that feature nihilistic slogans, crumbling corporate symbols, and impasto acrylics of decorative lace. A grid of spray-painted fluorescent cardboard squares reads CHOOSE DEATH, OCCUPY MURDER, COMMIT SUICIDE, and VOTE EVIL. Two, which Flood made for this exhibit, are tacked to the wall. The others, borrowed from private collections, are mounted and framed. This grouping posits the alleged purity of production against the taint of commerce, but this is a codependent standoff Flood enjoys. He wields his décor-based sleight of hand to condemn the 1 percent, with faux-cracked surfaces as metaphors for the corrupt duplicity of Google, J. P. Morgan, and the like. Meanwhile, he seduces this same wealth pool with his lace paintings, which he says are blunt capitulations to bankability.

Flood seems to consider the lace project as separate from his less “beautiful” work, but this show makes a connection. One recent piece—ostensibly just another churned-out painting, as the exhibition title suggests—reveals a punk sincerity within the professed cynicism. Stenciled from lace depicting George Washington’s boat on the Delaware, The Crossing, 2013, nods to Flood’s more aggressive pieces with its historic image of rebellion, while the luscious, silver and multicolored texture somehow lends gravitas to the Americana kitsch. Like all the lace paintings, this one wows with how-did-he-do-it formal moxie. So does a large acrylic canvas from 2013 emblazoned with the words (and the work’s title) FEEL NOTHING. Its biomorphic splash shapes seem to explode from within the painting to declare something else.