Critics’ Picks

Paula Wilson, Between Two, 2010, silkscreen pigment, acrylic, felt, paper, canvas, woodblock prints, spray paint on steel armature, 120 x 156".

New York

“I Am the Magic Hand”

Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
530 West 22nd Street
May 31–July 19, 2013

Curated by young painter Josephine Halvorson, “I Am the Magic Hand” is a lively exhibition of painting-related artworks that playfully breaks through the limiting art-historical template of customary painting surveys. What Halvorson brings to the table as curator is an intimate knowledge of her medium and the ability to offer insider musings on how her generation of artists confidently approaches paint, which seems to be as a flexible tool for creating transformative and emotionally charged imagery, quite often in conjunction with other materials.

Lisa Milroy offers an elegant example of paint’s adaptability with her triumvirate of mock boutique arrangements. In each piece, a dress hung on a standing base is displayed in front of a traditional canvas that mirrors or matches the pattern of the handpainted dress. Here, Milroy deftly walks the line between art and design: The form of the window display relegates the canvas to a backdrop, yet the entire assemblage is itself art, from the painted markings on the dresses to the finely sculpted clay bases of the hanger stands. This effect blurs the division between art and its model, while putting the focus on Milroy’s superlative handicraft and use of color.

Standing in opposition to Milroy’s reductive displays is Paula Wilson’s colossal and ramshackle “painting” made of felt, canvas, and paper on steel armature. Produced in collaboration with the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, Between Two, 2010, is a rough-hewn replica of two adjoining building facades, complete with intricate brick patterns, ornate lintels, and even graffiti. Worn posters and steel grates are lovingly recreated in a tactile mélange of media, giving the piece a celebratory feel despite the rundown nature of these inner-city buildings. Wilson’s bric-a-brac practice doesn’t search for a single subversive technique, but instead smartly opts for stylistic inclusion based on subjective affinity.

Halvorson, a newcomer to the curatorial arena, offers an exciting view of contemporary painting, suggesting that there is a bounty of alternatives available to artists who choose to work with this medium. The outcome is a sweeping yet hands-on approach towards painting that more curators would be wise to emulate.