Critics’ Picks

Paul Sietsema, Swipe painting (Chase), 2016, enamel on linen, 44  x 42".

Paul Sietsema, Swipe painting (Chase), 2016, enamel on linen, 44 x 42".

Los Angeles

Paul Sietsema

Matthew Marks Gallery | 1062 N Orange Grove
1062 N. Orange Grove Ave.
September 24–December 23, 2016

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” asks the New York Times job listing in Paul Sietsema’s ink-and-enamel drawing Vertical newspaper (thin green line), 2016, with some letters obscured by an unctuous mark. That white enamel is materially distinct from the ink rendering of the broadsheet below, but it is also not all it seems—the glob is the base for a painting of a paint-dipped coin, tossed onto the Times.

Such exacting representations throughout the exhibition bring up questions such as What do I see? and How was this made? That they come up simultaneously reflects the interchangeability at the heart of economic thinking, particularly given the objects depicted. In addition to the coinage, Sietsema’s enamel-on-linen work Swipe painting (Chase), 2016, depicts a credit card gliding across a support, evoking the movement of touch-screen commands, while the enamel and oil on linen Carriage Painting, 2016, shows a greatly enlarged collage of a torn hundred-euro bill.

The most intense performance of fungibility comes in the artist’s looped grayscale 35-mm film Abstract Composition, 2014, which depicts a rotating scrap of digitally animated cardboard, perforated with text taken from the descriptions of online auction items. After each has a spin, a new phrase appears. The switch happens offscreen, during the brief moment when only the edge of the turning cardboard faces the camera. The seamless shifting of contradictory content—“no further description” gives way to “multicolored divider”—unsettles the seemingly matter-of-fact subject. If the modernist push toward abstraction aspired to bring viewers beyond this material world, the invisible handling of commercial language in Sietsema’s film casts abstraction as a tool of the market-inflected reality we all live in.