Critics’ Picks

Jacco Olivier, Revolution, 2010, still from a single-channel video animation in HD, 24 minutes.

Jacco Olivier, Revolution, 2010, still from a single-channel video animation in HD, 24 minutes.

New York

Jacco Olivier

Marianne Boesky Gallery | 509 West 24th Street
509 West 24th Street
February 19–April 3, 2010

Dutch artist Jacco Olivier’s latest exhibition melds conventional gestures of painting with video animation to bewitching effect. On view in the gallery’s darkened front room are four wall projections (each under four minutes long), composed of his repeatedly reworked impressionistic paintings, which were photographed at different stages of composition. Strung together frame by frame, the stills morph into dreamy moving pictures that eschew any singular influence.

While Olivier surprises with this hybrid form, he also puts a sly spin on art-historical themes through his handling of subjects. The simply staged Bath, 2009, for example—the first animation encountered upon entering the exhibition—features a woman drying herself with a towel à la Degas or Cézanne, but as she moves, her bloblike shadow becomes as entrancing as her nude body. Focus also shifts in Portrait, 2009, a frontal depiction of a man from the shoulders up, whose mannerly format is upended when its sitter blinks and darts his eyes, transferring the gaze from the seer to the seen. Meanwhile, in the pastoral Transition, 2010, a male swimmer dives into a river as the canyon surrounding him toggles from representational landscape to abstract shapes.

In the back room, the twenty-four-minute Revolution, 2010, commands full attention, spanning nearly an entire wall with a panorama of a swirling cosmos that, thanks to a bit of computer finagling, unfurls in an unbroken, panned shot. This slowly unraveling ballet of floating stars (paint droplets), twirling galaxies (swaths of brushstrokes), and spinning planets (pools of color) plumbs the sublime, while its naive human rendering acts as an antidote for the potential schmaltz of CGI. Here, as in his other works, Olivier underscores the chimerical quality of paint by way of video—striking a happy medium indeed.