Critics’ Picks

Kratz, Thomas, Lick Gin, 2011, acrylic on plywood, 31 1/2 x 23 1/2 x 1/2”.

Vienna

Thomas Kratz

Croy Nielsen
Parkring 4
March 10 - April 21

Completely abandoning the figuration of his earlier work, Thomas Kratz’s latest exhibition, “No Tracks. No Traces,” provokes personal engagement with the surface of the paintings. The palpable fleshiness of a single, peachy-colored pastel on aluminum, Nude, 2011, heightens one’s visual awareness through the familiarity of the color and its corporeality. But when we recognize flesh, we often want more than to look at it, and the remaining eleven paintings in this exhibition are best viewed in relation to more than one bodily sense. Indeed, each possesses the power to awaken the viewer’s sensorium. In the 2011–12 series “Lick Gin,” comprising eight paintings, metallic powders such as manganese and tin have been mixed with pigment washes, giving the works an alloyed, slatelike look. The title plays on the word licking, and the tongue almost swells wondering what it would be like to taste these pieces’ chalkiness. Title and texture are suggestive of one’s sense of taste, but one’s sense of touch is also aroused. This is not just because the clean surface seems to beg the viewer to write on it, as Kratz has done, penciling in the year with a Twombly-like scrawl in the upper right-hand corner of the works. Drill and chisel marks reveal, on closer inspection, that these paintings have been painted on pieces of plywood, six of which have had their solidity interrupted by their unevenly cut bottom edges. These interventions into what the paint is applied to, the tangible intrusions into the paintings, enrich one’s perceptual experience of them by activating our sense of haptic exploration; as one follows the shape of the works, one can feel them without touching them. By way of their broad experiential interpretability, Kratz’s paintings enliven our visual and tactile senses and show the synesthetic power of color and surface.