Critics’ Picks

View of “Late Stick Style,” 2014.

View of “Late Stick Style,” 2014.

New York

Dustin Hodges

Miguel Abreu Gallery | Orchard Street
36 Orchard Street
January 12–February 23, 2014

“Late Stick Style,” Dustin Hodges’s solo New York debut, deploys the language of painting as a device for hoax. The exhibition responds loosely to an imagined “late” phase of Stick style, a nineteenth-century American architectural genre that emphasized structural transparency through rectilinear patterns. The fiction is a minor one, since the style is in fact recognized as a movement, but it’s enough to open up a larger conversation about transparency as it pertains not only to painting and architecture but also to exhibition narratives. It follows, then, that the show feels less invested in elaborating its fictional context, which it openly declares, than in examining painting’s ability to generate, reveal, and obscure it.

All nine works of painting and drawing on view have been made by hand, usually with a brush, running the gamut from the immediacy of the gestural mark to the measured precision of the schematic. In this case, mark-making has ramifications both within and beyond the frame, since each mark that alters the surface of the linen or paper serves to articulate the fiction that underlies the project. But exactly how that happens isn’t overly determined or even rational: In fact, several of the works on display bear only an oblique relation to architecture, especially the “Oyster Style” drawings (all works 2013), which are abstract, loopy, and quite beautiful. Notably, Elevation (Nickel Yellow), a small architectural model on a low pedestal, coated in a thick layer of gesso and yellow oil, and the only ostensible artifact of the artist’s imagined style in the room, is perceived through paint—literally.

Even taken outside of the show’s conceptual framework, many moments are wonderful: a “kiosk” built from “observational” paintings of potted plants (Kiosk (Cobalt Violet)); a smear of shiny bronze paint poking out from an oil-on-denim piece (Oyster Style Drawing 19); or two watery black and tan blobs set behind a spray of purple paint (Oyster Style Drawing 43). Positioned in a web of fictional relationships, some of the medium’s most basic capabilities suddenly surprise.