New York

Sam Messer

Ruth Siegel Ltd.

Images of fish and stuffed birds, a woman gazing thoughtfully beside a mirror or daydreaming over a bowl of apples, a skull grinning nastily out of a man’s inward-gazing face—everything in Sam Messer’s heavily worked paintings seems to exist in a forlorn, uncomfortable realm. No hint of sunlight, no view of the outdoors offsets the isolation, even through a window. Instead, views of the artist’s studio, his tenement room, and a bar make for cluttered interiors in which the stench of mortality prevails. Empty wine glasses, conch shells, and crucifixes are evidence that life is nasty, brutish, and short.

In his new paintings Messer continues both to work in a wide range of scales and to make direct references to the art of Goya, El Greco, Chaim Soutine, and Picasso. However, unlike the many artists of his generation who appropriate images for ironic purposes, Messer attempts to make his

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