Critics’ Picks

View of “Patrick Maguire: We’re on a Road to Nowhere,” 2016.

View of “Patrick Maguire: We’re on a Road to Nowhere,” 2016.


Patrick Maguire

University City Arts League
4226 Spruce St
January 15–February 12, 2016

In his latest exhibition, Patrick Maguire stages nine new, formally complex oil paintings on the walls of a carefully altered version of this gallery. A circular gray platform in the center of the room offers four arched wooden structures, each roughly the dimensions of a standard door; Maguire has installed a similar archway in the entrance to the gallery. These—and the gallery walls—are stuccoed with drywall compound, which provides a gentle oatmeal tone. Pink spotlights above further round out this soothing environment while a ceiling-mounted speaker emits a low-fi lulling whistle. Portholes are cut out of each “door” at eye level, and when looking through one of these, the viewer notices how various combinations of the paintings are visible—but never more than three works at a time. Standing on this central plinth structure also recalls being in an eighteenth-century landscaped garden, allowing one to experience a specific view that challenges each painting’s autonomy.

Yet, the strata of pigment in the paintings obscures any kind of representation. In Beyond Those Hills, 2015, a small square painting on a bright orange ground, purple-black and yellow nested semicircles alternately mirror the curvature of the exhibition’s central installation and entryway. These semicircles are overlaid with a loose mesh of tiny cream-colored vertical brushstrokes organized into uneven horizontal segments, which appear to undulate. The imposing body-scaled Window, 2015, is sparer, comprising horizontal bands of the same tiny marks, each band transitioning from cream to lilac. The illusion of simultaneous motion and stillness in these flickering patterns evokes a paused video. Maguire’s meditative installation thrums with potential energy.