New York

Lily van der Stokker


If exuberance were king and wanted to hire a court painter, it couldn’t do better than put Lily van der Stokker on the royal payroll. The artist’s decorative wall paintings and drawings—equal parts age of the Baroque, age of Aquarius, and age of ado-lescence—appear to strive for sheer exuberance as much as Platonic philosophy strives for the ideal. Dynamic lines reminiscent of Bernini, Borromini, and chemistry notebook doodlings, vivid hues reminiscent of early ’70s concert posters, and flowers—lots and lots of flowers—were all in full evidence in Mud Honey and Curlique (both works 1994), the wall paintings that dominated the show. These two works look as though van der Stokker used some inhuman means to create them, as if she took psychedelic clouds—the kind that don’t produce acid rain, just plain acid—and threw them into two opposite corners of the gallery, where they stuck to the wall and erupted in unpredictably groovy patterns the color of cotton candy and orange creamsicles. Though the two works have carefully contrived shapes and internal symmetries—the corner acts as a fulcrum between the mirror-image halves of the two designs—Mud Honey and Curlique look as if they have only just begun to take up a wall, like Baroque paintings spilling out of their frames. They’re the ticket that exploded: in a week you expect them to have proliferated, maybe even to have billowed out from the walls in big pink clouds that smell of Pez.

Trying to describe van der Stokker’s works, you begin to understand why psychedelic lingo is chock full of hallucinatory agglomerations of words like “exploding plastic inevitable” and “kandy-kolored tangerine-flake streamline baby.” How else can you describe a decorative eruption of pink regalia and flowers such as van der Stokker’s drawing Explosion of Love, 1991–93? Perhaps it’s symbolic that van der Stokker makes all her drawings in magic marker: like a trippy day in the life of Puff the Magic Dragon, a work such as Explosion of Love exceeds the humdrum rhythm of daily life to which words generally dance. Even when van der Stokker herself occasionally includes words in her paintings and drawings—in Explosion of Love, the words “LOVE + WORK” hover in what looks like an exaggerated design for the headboard of a king or queen’s bed—they are there simply to be exuberant. In another drawing of 1994, the names RuPaul, Annie Sprinkle, Dolly Parton, La Cicciolina, and Brigitte Bardot hover and glow against a pink grid; however, you certainly don’t get the sense that this is some boring art experiment in language—three yellow and orange stars highlight the drawing like exclamation points—but, rather, a demonstration of the artist’s inability to contain her enthusiasm for her favorite sex kittens. Perhaps the title of a 1993 drawing says it all: I Love it.

Keith Seward