New York

Anna Bialobroda

Jason McCoy Inc.

Anna Bialobroda’s oblong slivers of images from the silver screen present us with slices of unlife that don’t add up to a whole. It was Willem de Kooning who said that “Content is a glimpse,” and his remark seems at least as relevant to Bialobroda’s project as to his own paintings. In any event, it’s always edifying to discover an artist doing something smart and fresh with (figure) painting, whether or not he or she has been declared legally unconscious.

The top parts of Bialobroda’s paintings are truncated close-ups; the bottom portions represent the darkness where we the audience would be. In the lower section of each painting, an exit sign glows in dulled red or green, providing some color in contrast to the black and white fragments of faces above. More than simply post-Pop paintings from nonspecific screen sources, Bialobroda’s paintings use cropping and scale to engage the viewing body.

The pictures are about the size of tall, thin people. They hover on the wall and glance at you in a blank, flat, albeit brushy way. The faces flatten onto the surface as though their flesh were trapped in the frame. Up close, however, the “expressive” brushstrokes are so pretty that they look like they were smeared lovingly, if mechanically.

In a recent show at Simon Watson, Bialobroda showed canvases that were squarer in shape, with close-cropped, but less fragmentary, images from TV sets. Peering out into the gallery, the faces looked both bloated and dispersed, like large humans behind glass watching the strange mobile life inside a fishbowl. As TVs are growing bigger and bigger, screen images that dwarf live viewers will become an increasingly domestic rather than strictly public fact. As usual, mass-produced gadgets imitate art. By incarnating these fleeting images in a painterly way, Bialobroda works in the impossible overlap between technological and corporeal sensation.

Here the paintings are again obviously handmade, with impersonal but sensual painterly surfaces. At the same time, the cinema content is very much about a relation of seduction that preempts bodily contact. While you feel as if you are coming up close to part of a billboard, these paintings are more about the internalization and digestion of Pop; bits of mass-produced experience now seem as human as bodily fibers, rather than feeling canned. By working the surface of these images, and not just presenting cool slices of technological citation, Bialobroda is slowing down and pausing in the impossible place we traverse a million times a day—the glimpse of the real, the impasse between bodily and technological life, speed and paralysis.

Rhonda Lieberman