Critics’ Picks

Dana Powell, Ghost drive, 2017, oil on linen, 9 x 12".

Dana Powell, Ghost drive, 2017, oil on linen, 9 x 12".

New York

Dana Powell

Allen & Eldridge
55 Delancey Street
July 18–August 18, 2017

Refreshingly, Dana Powell’s twelve oil-on-linen paintings here are titled to succinctly convey their subjects: for example, Pale pool or Smoke screen (all works 2017). The approach is confident, allowing the viewer to engage visually without superficial complication. Subjects include seemingly benign situations, such as the white cloud in Puff or earth’s celestial companion in Daymoon, both delicately rendered and modest in scale. Test site and Hotbox, however—a picture of an explosion and closed elevator doors leaking smoke—complicate matters with their deadpan representations and grim humor.

Night drive, Lot, and Ghost drive depict the cinematic isolation and unease of road journeys undertaken in the dark. This is particularly strident in the latter piece, wherein the car’s headlights are all that pierce the pitch black of night, illuminating the highway and a wisp of something occupying the right lane. These shadowy paintings, along with Hotbox and Test site, cast the artist’s more picturesque images in a less comforting light. Why is the water in Pale pool rippling? Is someone out of the frame swimming? Drowning? And are the bright flashes in Rockets celebratory fireworks or distress flares?

Only Punch, made to appear as if a fist has been put through it, mounted on a strut behind a cutout section of wall, is overdone and unconvincing in its supposed violence. Otherwise, the tight effectiveness of this exhibition is due principally to the sly, undermining influence Powell’s sundry narratives have on one another.