Critics’ Picks

View of  “Abelow on Delancey,” 2013.

View of “Abelow on Delancey,” 2013.

New York

Joshua Abelow

James Fuentes
55 Delancey Street
October 10–November 10, 2013

Repetition is integral to the practice of Joshua Abelow, an artist who has succeeded in parlaying a individual iconography and persona into an emergent artistic presence in New York. The work in “Abelow on Delancey”—graphite drawings; small, medium, and large oils; and even a printed publication—conglomerate into a metaimage reflecting Abelow himself and a topography of the conditions subtending his practice. His stick figure man, often drawn donning a crude top hat and sometimes sporting an erection, appears over and over in the paintings on view. Never quite upright, the stick man is usually shown with slanted shoulders and a cocked elbow, and is occasionally accompanied by a solar disk, establishing a visual resonance with Matisse’s Icarus, 1947, a simplified figure that is itself the product of a few iterations issued from the artist’s late-career cutouts. With each appearance of Abelow’s stick man, we see the artist adding and refining a handful of self-coordinating gestures, including the direct use of his surname and references to his Web presence in six versions of the painting Blog Blog, 2013, and in two paintings titled Blog Me, 2013, which also include the directive in their composition.

Abelow is adept at driving home a point, or is at least keen to use all the artistic means at his disposal to broadcast a carefully composed image of himself. Consider the more familiar aspects of Abelow’s painting. Hard geometries disintegrate at their edges, raw burlap supports undercut the radiant colors on their surfaces, and a deft visual echo becomes just another dirty joke. These are accomplished, calculated transgressions, the workings of a talent acutely aware of his circumstances.