Critics’ Picks

View of “Jody Paulsen: Pushing Thirty,” 2017.

Cape Town

Jody Paulsen

SMAC Art Gallery | Cape Town
145 Sir Lowry Road The Palms
February 11 - March 25

Jody Paulsen did not have art historian Robert Pincus-Witten in mind when, in a summary of his personal aesthetic credo, he told an interviewer in 2015: “Right now, artistically, I’m in a maximalist phase. I don’t like any blank spaces.” If anything, Paulsen was describing his generous approach to composition in his felt collages, pieces featuring pithy text slogans referencing his mixed-race queer identity that, as finished work, operate as soft sculpture and exuberant public confessionals. His propensity toward visual surplus is also a hallmark of this show: Here, Paulsen manages to fit nearly all twenty-one of his felt collages, eight photographs, seven assemblage pieces, and three floor-based installations featuring branded handbags and stuffed birds, as well as a display of forty white shirts and black ties, into one room.

Paulsen’s collages dominate. They invite comparisons with Jeremy Deller’s processional banners and Tracey Emin’s quilts, although, attitudinally at least, the work is closer to Warhol’s in its love affair with consumer culture. Paulsen rarely ironizes the fashion brands and mainstream icons quoted in his work. Homoexotica: The Real Housewives of Disney, 2016, a nine-by-fourteen-foot collage, is exemplary: It offers straight likenesses of various Disney characters fringed by a tropical border of delicious monster fronds. His neo-Pop method is not without a critical conscience, however. The Love Algorithm, 2017, anatomizes the prejudices of queer cruising sites by simply quoting user preferences—“no blacks” and “no fats”—while Uganda and We’ll Never Have Jamaica, both 2016, skewer Uganda and Jamaica’s homophobic laws with speculative heraldic designs featuring exotic birds and bare-chested men wielding clubs. Heartburn, 2016, shifts the register: Picasso’s 1937 cubist portrait of Dora Maar, faithfully reproduced here, emerges as an unexpected source of his color-drenched maximal aesthetic.