Critics’ Picks

Slept (Paloma), 2003.

New York

Matt Saunders

Jane Lombard Gallery
518 West 19th Street
September 12 - October 11

In his first solo New York show, Matt Saunders presents fifteen portraits of avant-garde film stars, who range from the obscure (Heidemarie Wenzel) to the quasi-iconic (Udo Kier) and who are all shown sleeping or on the edge of slumber. The paintings are based on Polaroids of film stills taken directly from Saunders’s TV screen; the images, rendered in layers of translucent oil on mylar, look like gorgeous indulgences in pure fandom—except for the subjects’ closed eyes, which introduce a note of ambivalence. Also on view are a pair of videos that transform filmography into a kind of concrete poetry: In one (Slept, 2003), the names of every character played by the actors in Saunders’s portraits snake across two screens; in the other (Udo Kier 41 Times [1966–2003], 2003), the titles from all of Kier’s films are superimposed on top of one another. All of these works were inspired by Sleep, Andy Warhol's 1963 cinematic portrait of a slumbering John Giorno; together, they suggest that while Saunders may be a pop fetishist at heart, his mind is given to more deliberate cogitations. He seems interested in camp not only as an aesthetic but as an operation; here, he uses its mechanisms to explore the slippery relationships between intimacy and performance, audience and actor.