New York

Peter Huttinger

Feature Inc.

Peter Huttinger’s work operates as a kind of corrosive. The artist not only explores the idea of physical decay in a fresh and personal manner, but he pursues an aggressively antiintellectual agenda, one that effectively disarms and transfigures the painting without denying its classic expressive potential. It’s common these days to find paint being used to simulate the flatness of various forms of reproduction. But by mixing pigment and beeswax in his newest work, Huttinger makes gritty metaphors for corporeal experience.

Huttinger has spoken of his interest in pitting two things against each other, and there seem to be quite a number of things placed in opposition here. In the four larger and more interesting pieces (all works, 1988), pigment and wax clog together rather than blend; shitty-vomitty-bloody colors clash with the works’ glossy textures. In these untitled painting-objects Huttinger molds intestine-shaped reliefs into the surface of the wax, and the resulting cute, bumpy skins suggest octopus tentacles or the trunks of friendly elephants. In one of the works, the intestine seems to have raised up off the surface in order to greet or perhaps study viewers. It’s a little like the marriage of an autopsy photo and the frame of a cartoon. Not surprisingly, the effect is both wacky and kind of repulsive.

Four smaller pigment-and-wax works (with enigmatic titles like Subjective VII/Culture) are less literal in their evocation of the human body. Here, the earthy green, brown, and yellow wax surfaces sport garish lesions reminiscent of those employed by Tim Rollins + K.O.S. in some of their pieces—they convey a similar quality of self-conscious decay. A couple of the pieces have a row of lumps, perhaps suggesting seedlings, folicles, or cancers too weak to break ground.

Three large works on paper contain little ink doodles in which intestinelike forms sprout branches and leaves. One drawing even seems to include some sort of insect, but all of Huttinger’s figures are dark, and cramped inexplicably in the centers of vacant, off-white pages. Technically they’re very different from the artist’s earlier drawings, which tended to hide their deconstruction, within scrambled, spiderwebby outlines of rabbits, flowers, nuclear explosions, and naked women. That coyness is gone, and in its place is a confident sneak attack on the very roots of abstract art.

Dennis Cooper