New York

Mark Dagley

Tony Shafrazi Gallery

My path to Mark Dagley’s exhibition was paved with posters, pasted on the sides of buildings, featuring three photographs of the artist juxtaposed with two of his paintings. At the top of the poster was an image of him “pointing” toward one work, and below it one of him “pushing” against another, while a substantial head shot at the lower right showed the bespectacled Dagley gazing at the viewer. Looking at this, I wondered what was being advertised, the art or the artist? Several visits to the gallery revealed the paintings to be the latest installment in throwaway chic.

Dagley’s paintings nod toward “neo-geo” abstraction, but they sublate the movement’s cultural and intellectual rap into quotations of ’60s themes. These works, all from 1987, are plays on the convention of the shaped canvas, employing stretchers that project several inches out from the wall so that the works oscillate between painting and sculpture. The canvases are painted with multicolored units of squares, rectangles, trapezoids, and triangles, which are then overlaid with polymer resin to achieve a hard, shimmering brilliance. The colors range from beige, gray, and forest green to neon orange, pink, and yellow, but the ’60s-ish allusions of the latter are not nearly as obvious as Dagley’s references to “period” formats. Thus, Systems Selector simulates a frame, while the shape and dusky hue of Ghost seems like a play on one of Frank Stella’s black paintings. Zombie, a raised rectangle set on the floor like a coffee table, seems a takeoff on Minimalist sculpture. Although the surfaces of these paintings are completely covered with glistening, decorative patterns, the inside and outside edges of the canvas-covered stretchers are left bare in a cue to the late ’60s issue of materiality. Elsewhere, Dagley strikes out for Just Plain Fun: the eye-, nose- and mouth-like holes incised in the diamond-patterned surface of Hero result in an anthropomorphic work, a kind of cheery harlequinade.

At the edges of these paintings the colored geometric units are often arbitrarily truncated, indicating that the physical structure preceded its decorative coating. And, while the combination of colors often appears haphazard, a small brochure that accompanied the show contains a diagram of their disposition in one work, suggesting the logic underlying the finished result. However, Dagley’s paintings are short on concise reasoning and long on esthetic persiflage and banter. In their cavorting with superficial period references, they present yet another incident in the current amnesia about the serious issues of ’60s art.

Kate Linker