Critics’ Picks

Sue Tompkins, Come On, 2016, acrylic paint, metallic acrylic paint, glitter on canvas, 12 x 10''.

New York

Sue Tompkins

Lisa Cooley
107 Norfolk Street
February 21–March 27

“When Wayne Went Away,” Sue Tompkins’s first solo gallery show in the United States, requires close viewing. Her small, textured canvases of rich, dried-out paint don’t read from a distance or online. Neither do her typewritten fluorescent paper pieces “New Trances,” 2016, where pressed letters and carriage returns output textual shapes on a field (e.g., an orange page where the phrase “FEEL SO ALIVE” levitates over a tidy square of backslashes). With these forms, Tompkins shows a sincere urge to vocalize. They instantiate a moment when thought looks for language as a means of expression, or as a way to materialize a visual sound, part nonsensical and part lyrical, for more rhythmic intentions.

The front room installation gives plenty of breathing space for Tompkins’s conversational airiness. The painting Come on, 2016, exemplifies her eloquently brass tacks approach to image making. In it, a smearing of dark green is punctuated with daubs of glitter and blotches of metallic paint; just southwest of center, the canvas has been poked through, leaving a lipsticky red mark around the hole. The many surface surprises throughout the show—punctured canvases, glued-on wooden dowels, over-poured paint—make visible the maker’s hand and process. Her voice has an indelible pictorial presence, which must have something to do with her experience as a spoken word performer. Tompkins’s paintings and typed paper pieces fill the silent space with a clatter of sounds, none quite fully articulated but all wanting to connect.