Critics’ Picks

Graham Durward, When I was young I had no head my eye was single and my body filled with light
, 2009, oil on canvas, 48 x 40".


Graham Durward

Maureen Paley
21 Herald Street
February 28–April 5

Incense often masks seedy smells, but in Graham Durward’s exhibition of new oil paintings, the curling smoke he depicts rising from incense burning in his studio complements a series of large, dark, and dirty portraits of men with blurred or utterly obscured faces. Most of the figures are lithe, alluring, and naked, recalling the images posted in Craiglist’s casual-encounters forums. In Gosse, 2007, a shaggy-haired young man pouts and seems to point a camera at himself in a mirror while pulling down the waistband of his briefs on his sinewy bare body. Room with mirror (Gary), 2008, presents another topless young man facing his reflection in a long horizontal mirror that hangs in an affluently decorated room, while a mustard-yellow swatch of paint covers his face. In yet another, When I was young I had no head my eye was single and my body filled with light, 2009, the Scottish-born and New York–based painter completely covers his subject’s visage with paint as the boy pulls his shirt to his neck, arches his back, and thrusts his erect penis from under red gym shorts. Throughout the series, the murky patches of paint that Durward applies over the boys’ features function like the pungent scent of incense––hiding the identifying details of illicit acts while calling attention to the need to disguise the acts behind screens.