221 Madison Street
October 20 - December 2
How do conventions in the history of art exhibition persist—or, alternately, break down—when familiar images are reproduced and reframed in a canvas, or common objects repositioned and rejigged upon a pedestal? In “The Study,” a show of paintings by Michael Byron and sculptures by Stacy Fisher, long-standing questions of display continue to pan out. While Byron’s approach is museological (his paintings incorporate frames, finishes, and plaques), Fisher’s is utilitarian (her works sit on raw-wood pedestals or directly on the floor). Despite their aesthetic differences, however, the two artists reveal a common ethos: that through a process involving both reverent appropriation and irreverent play, the contemporary artist can continue to incorporate art’s weighty past into the studio practice of the everyday.
Fisher’s plaster sculptures resemble caricatures of quotidian objects, like lumpy stage props painted in vivid colors and patterns. Anthropomorphic, they congregate in one part of the gallery, some on wooden plinths and others leaning lackadaisically against one another. The forms are just short of identifiable: A top hat or a teapot? A tripod, a bicycle tire (à la Duchamp)? If exaggerated, these nonspecific shapes manage to resist being overly cartoonish, and rather give an impression of vibrant simplicity, in the vein of Richard Tuttle or Raoul De Keyser.
Meanwhile, Byron’s subjects are easier to pin down. In grisaille oil paint, he carefully reproduces art-historical photographs: of a bulbous sculpture by Pablo Picasso, a marble bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon, plus a variety of anthropological figurines. He finishes his renderings with a glaze that bubbles up on the canvas surface, lending a patina of age and antiquity to the painting. A parallel series of his color abstractions hang interspersed around the gallery, within mismatched frames and painted borders. With this quasi-traditional layout, Byron acknowledges the contemporary artist’s place in art history’s chronology and, like Fisher, exercises the freedom to rearrange it as he sees fit.