New York

Julian Trigo

Grand Salon

Julian Trigo’s paintings are more readily thought of as drawings on canvas. This is not only because of the medium used—charcoal on a uniform color ground in each work—but because of the sketchy linear style, and above all the intimate, quasi-pornographic nature of the imagery, which has a richer tradition in drawing than in the more public art of painting.

Trigo depicts children rapt in somehow innocent yet twisted erotic delvings. This is definitely a pregenital phase—the sex play is all mouths and hands. The sense of personal boundaries breaks down; it becomes hard to say where one body ends and another begins. The parts don’t add up anyway. A picture of two androgynous figures—they seem to be boys, but who can tell?—shows five arms in all, aside from things only vaguely anatomically identifiable. Since they look alike as well, you can, as you prefer, find implications of incest or evocations of multiple personalities. If, as Georges Bataille wrote, “the whole business of eroticism is to destroy the self-contained character of the participants,” then these are powerfully erotic works. Yet they don’t draw the viewer into their play, as intimately scaled drawings would, but in their form teasingly withhold what their subject seems to promise. These children observe a serene, even mathematical disinterestedness in the ecstasy that commands their concentration; all the more so may we. That their hands look like brushes is all that betrays the subject of these paintinglike drawings or drawinglike paintings to be the erotics of the act of painting itself—these hands become an allegory for a tactility the paintings refuse.

Barry Schwabsky