New York

Robert Graham

Kornblee Gallery

From a certain point of view Robert Graham may be thought of as a George Segal turned inside out and seen through the wrong end of a telescope. His wax figures are sexy, tinier-than-lifelike effigies, the only touches of color in otherwise blank environments constructed out of balsa and kleenex. The girls are sunkist versions of Pat Oldenburg and disport themselves in affective ecdysiast postures. Their bikini striped breasts are exquisitely punctuated with standup nipples and their hand-painted pudenda are painstakingly fitted with pubic hair. In part they are casual relations to the new plexigloss Wesselmanns and the pink cunnilingual dolls of Hans Bellmer. A strong Surrealist slang in forms Graham’s doll’s houses. (Imagine a bevy of beach bummerettes in sunbleached tresses and wet T-shirts had stumbled into Giacometti’s Palace at 4 A.M.) The erotic attractions of Graham’s girls, vagrant sisters of Mel Ramos’s Hefnerian daydreams, although quite striking, are not, it seems to me, the compelling artistic issue at work. The problem lies not with the Voodoo jujus, nor with the cursory architectural indications, but in the contrast between these relative states of completion.

Graham’s boxed interiors, emptied of their inhabitants, with their near-random displacements of generalized architectural motifs (poles, beds, troughs, beams, etc.) indicate a considerable toughness of mind. Several drawings, facilely diagramming a Renaissance box space, are peppered with wispy, untrammelled paint smudges, tissue trails and pencilled hyperbole. These almost ill-considered exercises are probably the bedrock layer on which the present daybeds get rumpled. Perhaps they will become the means whereby Graham’s, at present, divided allegiances may be resolved.

Robert Pincus-Witten