New York

Clayton Pond

Martha Jackson Gallery

With fluorescently bright reds, purples, greens, oranges, or blues, Clayton Pond characterizes his “Think Happy” mood in 15 canvases at Martha Jackson, depicting the corners and fittings in his studio-loft home. Happy, yes; the thinking—well, colorful anyway. Pond’s pictures of such intrinsically fascinating subjects as his Con Edison Meter, his Kitchen Sink (complete with dishes and garbage), his Toilet, his Grandmother’s Fan and other such paraphernalia display a Matissean delight in decorative patterning, as all the furnishings of his immediate environment are transformed into a homey little kaleidoscope. Even space-heaters and plumbing pipes emerge in brilliant turquoise and heliotrope, attractively ornamenting the scenes with their abstract joints, bolts, and bends. Sharp edging sets off the forms from each other although the intensity of the color is an even pitch throughout.

The freshman-like contour drawing is nothing short of ordinary however, and the whole show struck me as the work of an updated but still naïve enough primitive. The utter banality of the artist’s sentimental indulgence with everything he owns and lives around is never overcome or relieved by the prettiness of the colors or the slight capability for representational drawing exercises. The color situations are uniform from painting to painting, as is the basic attitude towards space, draftsmanship, and pictorial design. There is no sense of an artist constantly or even occasionally challenging his own expressive resources, but instead, the visual evidence of an unquestioning acceptance of a certain set of solutions prior to the work’s actual accomplishment. Some of the smallish studies and miniature-sized etchings with the same titles and subjects as the paintings suggest that Pond’s merits as a graphic designer rest on a rather cute and charming turn of hand (probably marvelous for travel posters, as the full color gallery announcement indicates), but enlargement and transfer to the painting medium results in unfortunate superficiality.

Emily Wasserman