Critics’ Picks

Mark van Yetter, Untitled, 2022, oil and wax crayon on paper, 40 x 28 5/8".

Mark van Yetter, Untitled, 2022, oil and wax crayon on paper, 40 x 28 5/8".

New York

Mark van Yetter

Bridget Donahue
99 Bowery 2nd Floor
February 10–April 8, 2023

Mark van Yetter’s “The Politics of Charm” indeed delights and beguiles, but all is not as it first appears. The show is primarily composed of two sets of works on paper, pastel-Fauvist in palette, marked with a hodgepodge of media such as pencil, watercolor, oil, and wax crayon. These are accompanied by a lone sculptural installation featuring a ceramic teapot and a pitcher on a pedestal. Such humble, incongruous materials draw the viewer into a visual world that is at once baffling and alluring, like a house of mirrors.

Doubling—in several senses—is central to the aesthetic experience van Yetter presents. In the most substantial group of works on paper, all Untitled and from 2022, each composition adheres to an idiosyncratic format of six painted panels arranged in two rows of three, one above the other, framed by color-pencil outlines. In each case, the outer panels mirror one other in general form and content, yet the two central panels seem unrelated. In one work, a radiant yellow bird appears to be bursting from its cage flanked by lyrical Matissean cats floating in blue indeterminate space. Above them stands a totemic figure in gray with breasts, a penis, and bloated feet turned unnaturally to the right like bent logs. What meaning is made through this juxtaposition of bird, cat, and ogre?

The puzzle is further complicated by the second series of paintings, all still lives depicting vessels arranged in an incongruously demarcated architectural space. Such clunky materiality, accentuated by the inclusion of the actual ceramics, provokes a curious comparison with the lyrical fantasy of the counterpart series. What makes this vision cohere?

The cumulative effect of these uncanny tableaux compels the viewer through a dreamlike labyrinth of affective association: a game bereft of ossified logic but brimming with poetic charm.