Critics’ Picks

View of “Jouissance,” 2015.

Los Angeles

Max Maslansky

Honor Fraser
2622 S. La Cienega Blvd.
April 11 - May 16

After some youthful experimentation, Max Maslansky hit on the technique of painting blotchy pornographic figures, stain-thin on stretched bedsheets, punning on the aftermath of intercourse. In some cases, such as Gross Anatomy (Half-twin Bed) (all works 2015), this conceit seems to waver between titillation and satire. The scene depicts a pair of hands entering from the left to slide yellow panties off a pleasantly hot ass. The woman is similarly cropped at the midriff by the canvas; she mounts a stepladder in front of shelves of cartoonish “anatomical” specimens—a googly pair of eyes on a small stand ogling her inner thighs, and near her knee, a disembodied red nose.

This nose, in fact—an organ at once inflamed and clownish—has become a signal element of Maslansky’s porno pictures. Six Women (Half-double bed) depicts a row of seminudes in gauzy purple negligees, faced by garish, red-schnozzed monster heads—a gimmick that stands ready to negate the high seriousness of sex and/or painting. Otherwise, Maslansky’s spreads are Fauveishly charged by the tense composition of partners in the act—men, women, props (or just hands)—and moody, liquid palettes: retro blends of aquarium blue, bubble-gum pink, platinum blond, pleather red. This taut formal depth comes to the fore in Mummies (Twin-size bed), in which a reclining brunette seemingly yields to the harlequin lavender background of the bed linen itself, which hides two groping, pleasuring masked men. Maslansky’s figure-ground erotics are easy to enjoy, yet the anxiety remains that his sometimes flip style might only be a fling.