Critics’ Picks

Mathieu Lefevre, Wash Me, 2009, dust on acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24".

Mathieu Lefevre, Wash Me, 2009, dust on acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24".

New York

Mathieu Lefevre

Regina Rex
221 Madison Street
May 18–June 23, 2013

“Irony as method” is how Mathieu Lefevre, the Canadian artist who passed away in 2011 at the age of thirty, once described his work. The ten pieces—indeed a litany of wisecracks and one-liners—included in his first posthumous solo exhibition, “The Stuff Things Are Made Of,” surefootedly pronounce the clear-sighted diligence of a skilled maker who consistently infused his own mischief and pluck into the structure, surface, and content of his artworks.

Wash Me, 2009, spells its title out in the perfect layer of dust Lefevre applied over acrylic paint on canvas, evoking the obvious simile of one commodity (a painting) being like another (a car). Paint Sandwich, 2010, consists of seven rainbow-like layers of thickly applied oil paint carefully smooshed between inward-facing canvases. Shit and Natural Phenomenons (both 2011) display globs and rolls—think of a sausage slid from its casing—of oil paint sprinkled with kitty litter and positioned, somehow tidily, on pristine white canvases. Taken literally or figuratively, a mark has been made (and yes, it does smell). Under the guise of irreverence, which Lefevre very well may have felt in regard to the commercial art world he was navigating, his paintings and sculptures are animated by a palpable joie de vivre and an unmistakable respect for art. While his work may present as wry or disenchanted—e.g., History of Painting, 2009, in which oil paint has been smeared like cake frosting on the board, making an exaggerated trompe l’oeil text book—it does not seem facetious. One senses that Lefevre didn’t find his own humor to be inappropriate; these aphoristic pieces appear to be the sincere and intelligent expressions of a person who loved making art, while never not seeing the forest for the trees.

Monument to Indecision (Version: Regina Rex), 2013, presides over the exhibition like a steampunk Arc de Triomphe. A table saw, space heater, floor rug, car tire, hand truck, garden hoe, and beer can are just a few of the items the show’s organizers have bound together with plastic. Lefevre had photographed his original Monument to Indecision, 2008, and captioned it as, “Photo of all the things in my studio taped together to shape a sort of ‘monument.’” That photograph is displayed within this second version along with the contents of Lefevre’s former studio, since locked in storage. Monument—either version—salutes the maddening solitude of studio hours, the slaphappy humor borne of frustration, and the outré imagination, charm, and physicality of Mathieu Lefevre’s art.