Critics’ Picks

View of “Jouissance,” 2015.

View of “Jouissance,” 2015.

Los Angeles

Max Maslansky

Honor Fraser
2622 S. La Cienega Blvd.
April 11–May 16, 2015

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.