New York

Kevin Wixted

David Beitzel Gallery

Kevin Wixted’s paintings seem lost in time and space. Though they suggest the detritus of an old country house (he employs stenciling and patterning techniques more familiar to decorators than to action painters), they also feature elements that could only belong to our moment, such as Kenny Scharf–like planets replete with painterly “drips” and Surrealist forms. Similarly, while his palette favors colonial colors Wedgwood blue and periwinkle, as well as tones of earth and wood—at times he pushes their values and adds accents (persimmon, aubergine, puce) that suggest avant-garde decor.

Though Wixted’s intelligent and technically accomplished, subtle and self-contained works make very civilized company, these paintings (most of them executed in oil, wax, and enamel on wood) never come off as simply self-satisfied; there’s enough about them that’s disturbing, messy, and a little unresolved to keep them out of the realm of mere decoration. In fact, the more time you spend with them, the more sly they seem. With their elements of trompe l’oeil and their faux finishes, their indeterminate colors, patterns and shapes, and their tension between two and three dimensions, they suggest places and situations that never quite announce themselves. They give you the impression that they are intimate with any number of artistic movements—pattern painting, Surrealism, that East Village stuff—without ever affirming their allegiance to a single camp.

This debut introduces a painter with brainy good taste, and perhaps, too, a new painterly approach aimed at exploring the finer issues of painting frequently overlooked in recent years by a culture more impressed with Sturm and Drang. If you’re of the opinion that gentle allusiveness and diffident good looks count for something in this world, Wixted’s paintings may well hit the spot.

Justin Spring