Critics’ Picks

Daniel Lefcourt, Reversal of Fortune, 2004.

Daniel Lefcourt, Reversal of Fortune, 2004.

New York

“Mystery Achievement”

Taxter & Spengemann
459 West 18th Street
September 15–October 9, 2004

The artists in “Mystery Achievement” are all master showmen. As indicated by the exhibition's title, the four pieces on display are deceptive: Through impressive feats of sleight of hand, they make complexity look easy. Frank Benson's contribution, a life-size sculpture of a mutant Galapagos turtle, has a plaster-colored softness and a slight, seasick tilt. In place of flippers and head, casts of the artist's hands protrude from under the shell, gesturing with a poignant expressiveness that makes the absence of realistic limbs even more abject. Daniel Lefcourt offers up a gorgeous painting of a black, coal-like lump on bare canvas, accompanied by a small puddle of shadow. The luscious intensity of the thickly-grooved paint exerts a powerful force—its disarming sincerity throws down the gauntlet to the “Gothic” trend. Tony Matelli's fake eyeballs roll randomly around a table, bump into each other, pause, then continue manically—a nod to the futility of existence, perhaps, and a visual pun on trompe l'oeil (the eyeballs are set in motion by a hidden system of magnets). And Matt Johnson takes an expert stab at the art of boredom with his jigsaw-puzzle sunset—curved, freestanding, and, amazingly, bronze. These accomplished, cheerful works are made to be seen, and seeing them is a real pleasure.