New York

Michael Tetherow

Bykert Gallery

In his first New York one-man exhibition, Michael Tetherow exhibited a series of vertically rectangular paintings, each with two holes about six inches apart slightly above center. The paint is applied in a controlled splattered technique and is almost entirely monochromatic except around the holes where there is always an aura of contrasting colors. Generally, a pale brown, orange or red will, at the center, give way to drips of brighter blues, reds, and yellows. The ideas Tetherow seems concerned with—visibility of process, literalness of the support and some kind of perversity—are current, but the actual elements he uses are both academic in isolation and arbitrary in combination. It is quite obvious that the holes are meant to contradict the spatial illusion of the splatters and to jolt the viewer back to an awareness of the paintings’ two-dimensionality. The holes are jolting in other respects, for, combined with the auras of color, they suggest eyes in heads and give the work a sinisterly anthropomorphic quality. The whole thing resembles a Jasper Johns painting with a bandit in it, which is not as funny as it sounds. It is also possible to take the work as a literal reflection of the way art is seen; the holes locate not only the picture plane but also our habitual points of vision, while the auras of color allude to the more general areas of vision. That this might be the case makes the paintings sinister in a much more profound way. There is something basically tight and scary about them; they seem involved with a way of seeing which does not need to be reinforced any more than it already is. Art which focuses on the limits of vision is depressing.

––Roberta Smith