Critics’ Picks

Ladies and Gentlemen . . ., 2007, graphic, acrylic, oil, and enamel on canvas, 10 x 12'.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . ., 2007, graphic, acrylic, oil, and enamel on canvas, 10 x 12'.

Los Angeles

Matt Greene

Peres Projects
2766 South La Cienega Blvd
April 7–June 9, 2007

In this exhibition, Los Angeles–based artist Matt Greene moves toward a more personal investigation of feminine iconography. Reminiscent of nineteenth-century Symbolism in composition, content, and literary associations, these distinctly modern paintings acknowledge the influence of popular culture on the subconscious, which Greene investigates with personal, intuitive panache. Most of the paintings depict variations in pose and form on a single female figure on a spare, ethereal field of pale color or an abstracted stairway. The women—and cross-dressing men—in Greene’s paintings (though it seems as if only one endlessly mutable woman is truly the object of his aesthetic affection) appear like characters in an epic historical drama, poised like glam soldiers with swords, provocatively dressed postfeminists unafraid of their own allure. Both Edgar Degas’s ballerinas and highbrow sex shows come to mind. Because of the works’ attractive style, technical facility, and content, some have dismissed Greene’s oeuvre as being suited for, in the words of one writer, “male hedge-fund managers with a yen for lap dances.” Though one can be reflexively suspicious of the seductive quality of the pretty paintings, such a reading woefully ignores the strange, subtle qualities residing literally and metaphorically beneath the surface. They are pretty paintings, yes, and are burdened with the politically correct baggage that attends to a male artist addressing “erotic” subjects, but a sense of intense deliberation—spiritual, physical, and intellectual—pervades the work.