New York

Richard Bosman

Brooke Alexander Gallery

Richard Bosman presents a somewhat similar problem. Another painter who looked hot when he first appeared, Bosman has so far been unable to develop his starting position into anything more substantial than a good beginning. He has fallen victim to that familiar syndrome: one big hit followed by too many, too similar remakes. Three years ago the corny violence he favored in both image and handling seemed timely, exactly keyed to pressing issues centering on the debate about appropriation (itself suffering from a repeater problem). For a while Bosman, like the Berlin painters, seemed to be concerned with intervening in that debate. His use of comic-book pictures and a patently borrowed, authentically inauthentic painting style placed him firmly within the “pseudo” rather than “neo” camp. The paintings looked highly romantic yet cynical. The stories they told, too-familiar melodramas of love, death, and detectives, were presented in a painting style which matched their degraded heroism.

The new paintings look the same, if a little larger, and that is the problem. There is no evidence in the new work of a continuing dialectic. A stasis has been reached, an understanding accomplished. Perhaps as a result of some complicity between the earlier paintings and their critical reception, the work has solidified into a mannerism, a barely conscious repetition of proven formulas.Worse, instead of thinking about what he paints or why he paints, Bosman has been concentrating on how he paints. The new paintings are much smoother than the earlier work, the awkwardness of flailing limbs and torn faces is lost, and what could once be understood as a defamiliarizing device (“bad” painting) now seems much less exact, perhaps nothing more interesting than a kind of slovenliness.

What has happened is that the paintings have been reduced to stylized repetitions of their precursors. The detectives and hoods become emblematic not of the aspirations our culture, in high and low forms, invests in charismatic heroes, but of their already known existence as Bosman’s trademarked production. They have ceased being the means through which Bosman advances his art and have become talismans that identify it and so take it over. The most emblematic of these new paintings illustrates the point only too well: a chase; two figures advance, but they are frozen into an awkward, relieflike immobility, suspended in a bright red field of brushstrokes, of bloody repetitions mirroring the collapse of art into production, practice into product, work into its representation.

Thomas Lawson