New York

Joanna Pousette-Dart

Susan Caldwell Gallery

Both Gornik and Joanna Pousette-Dart choose styles that are a given, like picking from the Sears catalogue of modes—they take one perfunctorily so as to get on with painting. This use of anonymous, ready-made, or conformist style connects with the work of artists like Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, whose pictures and sayings seem to have no author, only the voice of authority. In their character as axioms the phrases these artists use seem to have always existed, to have had no beginning, like proverbs (particularly in Holzer’s case). Surely this is a tactic that implicitly undermines belief in an art history that implies a register—of ownership, of patents—from which women, among others for so long legally forbidden to own property, were excluded.

One of the effects in Pousette-Dart’s paintings is to take an especially signatory technique, Jackson Pollock’s splatter and drip, and open it up to diversified role-playing. By making the process adapt itself to sculptural, serial, and even decorative ends, she is in effect bringing that style farther away from its historical source and closer to being just a tool—a generic rather than a brand name. Pousette-Dart may not be able to claim originality, but she will claim efficacy. She puts the paint through its paces, makes it run the gamut, and it comes out not hers but everybody’s, communal. In this she is kin to Jennifer Bartlett, with the difference that the approach never shifts, only the frame of reference.

In a way, Pousette-Dart renders Abstract Expressionism filmic; putting its marks on separate but abutting canvases shifts its “all at once” quality to a modified temporality—modified because what’s created is an air of time passing rather than a necessarily faithful procedural record. Eadweard Muybridge is evoked only to be ignored; which marks precede which is unclear in a piece treated as a unified field but paraded across a segmented ground of six sections. Elsewhere an unbroken panel is distinctly if subtly painted in two parts. Or perhaps the first piece is like film speeded up so that the action appears unbroken. Then the folding-screen paintings are film slowed down for discontinuity; each panel flashes its flanks like a blue jay jerking from side to side so rapidly that transitions look suspended. Time hooks onto space not only in this freestanding wall, but in the sculptural references to friezes and to weight-bearing arrangements of narrow panels above wider ones (the former the preliminary, the latter the main event). Overtures to the decorative are unmistakable, especially in one use of mosaic tiles for a painting’s border. If Pousette-Dart takes Abstract Expressionism, a method defined by its flatness, immediacy, and cultural isolationism, and gives it dimension, tense, and cross-cultural affinities—all without changing its recognizable look—isn’t that a denial of the idea of identity on which claims of uniqueness and precedence are based?

Jeanne Silverthorne