Critics’ Picks

Ray Yoshida, Untitled, ca. 1972, felt-tipped colored pen on paper, 24 x 18".

Ray Yoshida, Untitled, ca. 1972, felt-tipped colored pen on paper, 24 x 18".

New York

Ray Yoshida

David Nolan Gallery
24 East 81st Street 4A
December 10, 2015–January 30, 2016

The goofy and mystical qualities of Ray Yoshida’s works aren’t at odds. In his fastidious, otherworldly works, made primarily between 1969 and 1974, the Chicago Imagist builds both figures and abstract landscapes from wormy stripes, like cartoon veins or brainwaves. His surreal forms resemble two-dimensional renderings of wonky sculptural objects, and there’s a vintage-Marimekko-slash-Flintstones feel to his trippy patterning. Some of his untitled felt-tipped pen drawings, circa 1972, show women with hourglass figures, orderly spaghetti hair, and nominal or distorted faces. In another drawing, a beefy guy with a mummy or basket face wears a vest and tie while standing in front of a curtain. And then there’s one in which striped curtains are parted to show more parted striped curtains that in turn reveal a pile of . . . stripes. The drawings are funny and casual-seeming, but as representations or invocations of the Infinite, they also inspire seriousness.

Four early collages on view are small and their tiny elements—hands, limbs, and other things mined from comic books—are concentrated in the center of the paper. Telling whole superhero stories in dynamic clusters, they function as distilled celebrations of the narrative and visual excitement of their sources. Yoshida’s unslick, scaled-down version of Pop was characterized by sly erosions of the high/low cultural divide and, importantly, influenced by his fascination with thrift-store paintings and folk art. With inimitable style, he embraced unschooled aesthetics and questioned official art’s hierarchies. This show, aptly titled “Mystery and Wit,” is an introduction to Yoshida’s long practice of meticulous, charming, cosmic, and subtly perverse explorations.