New York

Stephen Ludlum

Oil And Steel Gallery

Stephen Ludlum is what you might call a Papa artist—part Pop, part Dada, but not either. I don’t usually like anesthetic painting but there’s something I like here. There’s nothing pretty, nothing particularly witty—but there is a sort of meditative removal that rings a bell in abeyance.

I thought of a line by Lou Reed: “the absurd courts the vulgar.” In a surreal world the absurd is vulgar. Here the courtship is over, and so is the honeymoon. Beyond the absurd is a riddle.

Ludlum’s stuff is about creative erasure, mystical delimitation, reductio trans absurdum, nuts-and-bolts mandalas. Kitsch au courant has an arbitrary edge to it—campy found objects are everywhere; Ludlum’s diagrams, black blueprints, and digital lotteries aren’t campy. Despite analogous tactics they have a stark, funky, cabalistic luckiness about them. They are bound to inspire numbers players somewhere down the line.

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