Critics’ Picks

Left: Pressure Group 1, 2002. Right: Pressure Group 2, 2002.

Left: Pressure Group 1, 2002. Right: Pressure Group 2, 2002.

New York

Michel Majerus

Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street
456 West 18th Street
September 5–October 19, 2002

Michel Majerus’s “Leuchtland” comes straight out of the “artists who push painting to new limits” department, but his sharply conceived, large-scale installations test the boundaries of even that broad category. Utilizing the seemingly endless high/low, art/culture image bank that artists dip into so freely these days, Majerus (who does this better than many others) juxtaposes art-historical references—passages of gestural abstraction, Minimalism, and Pop—with language, commercial logos, comic-book-style action figures, and the graphic from the video game Space Invaders. Sometimes he renders these with paint on canvas; elsewhere the visuals take a silk-screened or even sculptural form. All variations are present here, along with three ugly, Frank Stella–derived triangles blazing harshly under the fluorescent lighting, painted with stripes of pink, orange, green, and brown. Those wedges provide a place for the eye to pause before proceeding across Majerus’s visual circus, which even includes a slightly distorted fun-house mirror. Like his previous exhibitions, this one—the artist’s first solo outing in the US—integrates painting with elements of architecture. Working like an engineer, he first establishes a kind of master plan on the computer screen, positioning each element in relation to others and to the overall space. While every painted or screened image is meant to stand on its own, they are framed and connected by brightly painted aluminum vertical and horizontal beams. Majerus doesn’t just paint, he builds.