Critics’ Picks

Borox and Test Failure, 2005.

Basel

Ryan McLaughlin

Groeflin Maag Galerie
Dienerstrasse 12
January 7–February 18, 2006

Old Master-esque figurative painting may be in vogue at the moment, but the small-scale oil paintings by young, Berlin-based, American painter Ryan McLaughlin go above and beyond this trend. Simultaneously fantastic, cryptic, and hilarious, his works feature three fictional protagonists—the owl Allen (in the dual role of uncanny hunter and allegory of reason), the scientist Dr. Kenneth Stevens (mad professor or wise healer?), and a flat, abstract form called Borox (a split rhombus made out of four differently colored triangles)—engaged in curious scenarios set in Romantic landscapes. Painted with a finesse typically associated with the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, the titles nonetheless allude to strange experiments, often related to aviation and the aerospace industry (for instance Borox and Launch or Borox and the Raytheon Steam Engine, all works 2005). But a cursory examination reveals that something is amiss. Allen and DeLaval Nozzle shows the owl staring askance at a funnel-shaped apparatus lying before him, while Borox and Test Failure features a portentous column of dark smoke in the background. Here, the modern spirit of invention reveals all of its possible failures, and industry and myth mingle in a dark fantasy of a lost Arcadia.