New York

David Storey

Only the subtlest of changes have occurred in David Storey’s work since his previous New York solo exhibition in 1987, and these have to do primarily with chromatic pitch—Storey’s gray-blues, in particular, are getting moodier. His skittish, bebop rhythms—all wind and brass—animate this show as they did the last, and his syncopated abstracted shapes still seem to have paused for an instant on canvas, en route to the biomorph’s ball. This artist’s affection for the moment moderne has been extremely obvious for about ten years now, ever since he stopped shoveling paint around earthy imagery (during the ’70s, Bill Jensen was head gardener), and caught up with the veiled, urbane dance corps of the shifty ’80s. In contrast to many of his near-contemporaries, however, such as the slightly younger and more influential David Salle, Storey’s evident nostalgia for the mid-century rhythms of inventiveness—so haunting, it seems, to all those born toward its fintailed end—is not ironic or even intellectual in any overriding way. Storey’s father, an art teacher, had an active interest in postwar industrial design; perhaps this has something to do with both the sincerity and, one senses, with the oddly generic period syntax that characterizes the work of his artist son.

The upfront homages to Cubism and abstract Surrealism—especially to Joan Miró, Matta, and Paul Klee—are givens in Storey’s paintings, not devices. Mid-century design motifs have played endless cameo parts in recent works of art, but rarely have they appeared so distracted so unaggressive. There’s not an ounce of noire perversity, Bad Taste, or Hyper-Consumerist cool in this stuff. These paintings suggest the limbo state of a Sunday morning main street by Edward Hopper, which is strange as so much movement is actually implied. Colors shift in flickering patches; forms fragment and reassemble; music, as always, is strongly evoked. Almost all of Storey’s biomorphs have active “elbows,” yet the linear protrusions—often edged or filled in with black—never seem to jab or nudge each other in formal competition; rather, they suggest The Road Runner of cartoon fame, doing a little rev-up jitterbug before getting on with his day. They’re screwball, wistful, and lovely to behold. If they seem a wee bit ditzy, it could be because they’re at once so inventively engaged and so remote.

Lisa Liebmann