Critics’ Picks

Philip von Zweck, Untitled (gray stripes), 2013, oil and acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24".

Philip von Zweck, Untitled (gray stripes), 2013, oil and acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24".

New York

“How I Wrote Elastic Man”

89 Eldridge Street
February 1–March 10, 2013

One of the more compelling aspects of “How I Wrote Elastic Man,” a group show featuring six artists—Anne Doran, Franklin Evans, Daniel Newman, Deb Sokolow, Philip von Zweck, and Ishmael Randall Weeks—is the way their works employ subterfuge as a means of enhancing their effects, whatever those may be. This is particularly clear in the two text-heavy drawings on view from Chicago-based Sokolow, which are excerpted from her narrative suite “Notes on Denver International Airport and the New World Order,” 2011. Here, she provides an account of a vast and shadowy global conspiracy that may or may not have literally entrenched itself in a secret headquarters beneath the airport. It is an obvious farce. Nevertheless, the drawings’ quotient of real people, including former Denver mayor Fredrico Peña, is enticing enough to sustain their sensational notions about companies such as Dairy Queen, which appears as an occupational cover for NWO agents, and Peña himself. Peña, in fact, later served as transportation secretary under President Clinton, where he oversaw the elimination of eleven thousand jobs within his department. Later, as energy secretary, he presided over the largest privatization of government property in US history. These offenses are just aspects of the banal continuum of tragedy that Sokolow foregrounds if only through such extreme contrast.

Philip von Zweck, another artist from Chicago, offers a different narrative with two untitled paintings, both 2013, sharing the same handmade pattern of vertical stripes. These sedate abstractions are done in measured grays and blues, respectively. Seemingly, they say something about their motives—at least that is how we are inclined to read such self-referential formalism. Von Zweck himself has written about what his works are not, stipulating that they’re not about everything—they are only about paint. Von Zweck is adept at mining this fertile position of combined self-revelation and ambiguity. His first show of these works, which took place at threewalls gallery in Chicago in 2009, hinged on this disparity; now, as then, we are still left guessing.