New York

Scott Grieger

Mizuno Gallery

Art strategy question: you deciphered the brand-name game of ’60s superstar art and made your initial splash parodying it with “combinations,” “impersonations,” and (sniping at hippie “sensitivity”) dog-turd zodiacs, and now you’re pushing thirty and it’s time to dump the clever-kid image and establish yourself as a serious, nongadfly artist—what do you do? Well, you can’t take up an acceptable modernist mode (reductive painting, videotape, photo-Realism, Euell Gibbons process, conceptual data) lest it imply either favoritism or simple oversight in the earlier lampoons and you get it in the neck the same way you gave it. You can’t start practicing a retardataire style like late Cubist portraiture or Surrealist dreams because your hipness will make you throw up. And you can’t just drop out because the mainstream needle is under your skin. So (Eureka!) you tell yourself that art is, after all, whatever gets you off, and you spend your days making the most mindless, irrelevant, maybe even commercial pictures possible, but (double Eureka!) you tuck a whole buncha art-historical double takes in small places,where they’ll show you’re still trendy, but inconspicuously enough not to be taken as smartass, which was, after all, part of the early ’70s. If that hypothesis has any basis, it might explain why as interesting a mind as Scott Grieger’s could produce a show that’s such an embarrassment.

Grieger uses Billy Al Bengston-type watercolor backgrounds (it’s hard to break the induced habit of guessing sources) in lovingly touched swirls, bleeds, and friskets, as universes for tiny, tightly rendered horses, dogs, butterflies, and leaf stems. On the latter, Grieger unloads in miniature his art allusions: Stella/Louis wings for the insects, Duchamp-Villon mechanisms in the dogs’ heads, and (I didn’t catch it until Grieger showed blown-up detail slides in a lecture where, incidentally, the work made more sense as a light show for Grieger’s not unaccomplished rock music) the shape of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty eaten into a leaf by a new dialectical caterpillar. If (and it’s a big, futile if) Grieger had adhered fully to his inclination to go innocuously haywire—perhaps little bare-assed Disney pixies entwined in sci-fi foliage, without the art cutsies, and on non-AE deadpan fields—he might have gotten something more than these attractive, sweet, show-and-tell trifles.

Peter Plagens