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.