Critics’ Picks

You're Going Down, 2002.

You're Going Down, 2002.

New York

Javier Piñón/Charles Thomas

505 W 27th St #5
May 9–June 14, 2003

Javier Piñón grew up in Texas, which may partially account for the cowboy theme in his works. But he’s tapping into an iconography that cuts across regional lines. In Piñón’s latest collagelike paintings, the cowboy goes head to head in the boxing ring with another mythic masculine character, the Minotaur. Each painting has a block-lettered taunt as a backdrop (i.e., "Stop crying you fucking baby”): These fights are as much about psychological as physical domination. Executed on metal panels and canvas mail bags, Piñón’s paintings are vigorous yet poetic reflections on the denial of vulnerability, and the undercurrent of violence, that are inextricable from notions of masculinity.

A dreamier kind of energy surges through Charles Thomas’s dense, large-scale paintings of the poorest areas of cities like Chiapas, Mexico and Belen, Peru. The artist visits each of these locales and makes work based on photographs and memories. On canvas, a favela in Rio becomes a gridlike expanse of interlocking shanties, brightly colored but dingy (Favela Rochina, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2002). The stylized composition evokes the seemingly endless expanse of the actual place while also suggesting Thomas’s imaginative memory of it. Other works focus on atmospherics: Salvador Bahia, Brazil, 2002, is a close-up view of ocean swirling around a rock. The froth is rendered in small rectangles, giving a form to flowing water that's as mutable as memory itself.