Critics’ Picks

Gary Panter, Boarding Pass, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 48 1/2 x 35 1/2".

Gary Panter, Boarding Pass, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 48 1/2 x 35 1/2".

New York

Gary Panter

Fredericks & Freiser
536 West 24th Street
October 6–November 5, 2011

Gary Panter’s first solo show at Fredericks & Freiser is an odd affair. It is presented much like a debut exhibition, with introductory remarks about his general style, yet it offers a quarter century of work. What's more, the show’s twenty paintings on canvas and paper draw from the entire length of his production to date, with a focus on his recent works, but the selection does not aptly represent his breadth. Still, one is given a sense of Panter’s versatility and omnivorous art-historical and pop-cultural consumption. His newest canvases, of which there are several here, pit Op art’s illusory three-dimensionality against collage’s flat representation. The results read like holodecks of Manet paintings, in which clusters of frozen figures interact ineffectually with a vibrantly oppositional background––reverse Le Déjeuner sur l’herbes. Stumbling Block, 2011, for instance, places a quartet of gray-tone cowboys within one of three ever-diminishing green-striped “rooms.” One cowboy shoots his rifle into a perspective that disappears faster than a bullet.

Panter’s spatial investigations extend to earlier works. Door Jam, 2009, depicts objects––such as boxes, buildings, fences, and doors––that describe and control space. Boarding Pass, 2008, hints at the sense of freedom frequently associated with travel––a car speeds along an open stretch of highway; the horizon line disappears murkily into the distance––while frustrating that notion with limitations, as the painting’s title implies. Elsewhere, a series of 2004 works on paper resembles a set of palimpsests, with the pieces’ layers of acrylic markmaking merging into a complicated composition of color and line. Long, horizontal canvases such as Melt Gas, 2004, and Gulf Port, 2003, use color-gridded backgrounds as an organizing principle for Panter’s pop-cultural subconscious: a hodgepodge of cartoonish figures, objects, and forms arrayed neatly as symbols of and stand-ins for culture at large.