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“Tony Greene:”

Iceberg Projects
7714 N Sheridan Road
April 5, 2014–May 5, 2014

View of “Tony Greene:,” 2014.

Synchronized with a capsule exhibition of Tony Greene’s canvases in the current Whitney Biennial, this group show curated by John Neff gathers works by the late painter and pieces from eight (queer-identified) artists. If the roster seems a bit obvious given the cachet that many of the featured are currently enjoying, the works and the telling rapport produced by their placement and proximity to each other prompt the viewer to imaginatively construct lineages that were interrupted by the devastation of AIDS. (Greene died in 1990 from AIDS-related complications.) Loss and lust permeate the exhibition, but so does an earnest gesture to recover forgotten histories and call attention to shared aesthetics.

Greene’s paintings are jewel toned and densely decorated; they began with photographs that he painted over with lush gardens, wreaths, banners, and achingly complicated frippery. For instance, Grain of His Skin, 1988, laces a bare male torso with gummy paintings of feathery scrollwork. The compositionally symmetrical painting is flanked by Latham Zearfoss’s Preserve, 2013, a set of luminous silk curtains patterned with slices of strawberries pressed into their surfaces. At the opening, a boyishly handsome local wore Dean Sameshima’s Numbers T-shirt, 2011, and art viewing was more like cruising; but now the shirt is empty and tossed onto a gallery bench, no less sexy, but sadder. An unfinished and untitled work of Greene’s—showing a black-and-white close-up of a man’s pouty mouth and jawline—is paired with an untitled work on paper by Paul P. from 2014, which is representative of the latter artist’s recent turn toward abstraction, decor, and vulgar palettes. The two works cleave together as a deconstruction of Greene’s oeuvre, with Paul P. bringing forward Greene’s camp and romance into a present-day iteration.

These knowing moves in the show’s design recalls Neff’s exhibition project in 2011 wherein he reprinted a selection of Robert Blanchon’s photographs. Akin to the sumptuous layering in Greene’s paintings, Neff here continues to fruitfully develop his sensibility for elegantly reassembling dispersed artistic and gay histories.

Matt Morris