New York

Hollis Sigler

Barbara Gladstone Gallery

If Ida Applebroog is a soft-spoken commentator on urban affairs, then Hollis Sigler is a closet interpreter of suburban life. Her new series of paintings, “Poisoned,” depicts a set of unpopulated rooms cluttered with the tiny material objects and emotional residue of one dominant male who was “hungry for power,” and of one dominated woman who was “always devining [sic] to be loved.” Their mock-sentimental tale of woe, told through the delicate captions that are painted onto these paintings, is not nearly as interesting as the varying collections of tiny doll-sized objects that clutter the paintings. The two mysteriously absent folks who inhabit these places wouldn’t hang out in desolate hotel rooms; if they even venture from their luxurious interiors, it is probably to go to a social event populated by their own kind.

Simply, the fairy tale told in nine one-line captions is as follows: power-seeking successful businessman (one painting shows his room, decorated with numerous sports trophies) passes on his empty heart, poisoned by materialism, to a woman, an innocent, romantic victim. Sigler manifests the different stages of this hollow affair through the heavily symbolic details in each of the rooms.

Like Applebroog, Sigler uses curtains to frame the illustrations of this narrative, but hers are the opulent curtains of a stage, held back in some works by long, black-gloved hands. Glistening with the accoutrements of material comfort, the first five of these paintings (before the “poisoning” takes effect) show interiors well-suited to those who have sought and acquired power. But the next three, in which electric colors and hallucinogenic distortions take over (depicting such things as a card table teetering on yellow and green mountainous shapes), are stereotypically tacky. The last painting The Perfection of this Poisoning—of an elegant parlor with a lonely, glowing TV set—is quite a bit more muted, and, of all the interiors, is the one most likely to warrant an appearance in House & Garden. Is this what undeclared love does to those who have money? Does a failure at love reveal the tack hidden beneath the riches?

Sigler doesn’t bother with tedious explanation, but there are enough details and subtleties in these paintings to keep us guessing. The only catch to this guessing process is that it remains a game, obfuscating a deeper purpose. We are not led out of these paintings; rather, their imagery pulls us back in again for closer scrutiny. But upon closer examination, the objective of Sigler’s stylization grows opaque. “Poisoned” is not as incisive as we may at first have thought. Its style outweighs its message.

Joan Casademont