Scott Grodesky

Mario Diacono Gallery

Scott Grodesky’s systematic, morosely ironic paintings investigate both the space of dystopian production and the production of dystopian space. In these rigorously nongestural compositions, each an idiosyncratic blend of figuration and abstraction, Grodesky replaces Renaissance-derived, one-point perspective with an unsettling anti- or reverse perspective. Consequently, objects seem to twist and bend, while unmoored automatonlike figures drift in the air, falling or floating up as if recoiling from a remote underwater explosion. Grodesky outlines his figures in graphite, filling them in with a brightly colored, thin acrylic wash. His application of a variety of bubbly or meshlike industrial papers gives the surfaces the appearance of texture. Overall, however, his technique is deliberately devoid of sensuality, and his canvases suggest enclosure rather than spatial expansion.

In 1994, XII, 2 (all works 1994), three isolated, young androgynous figures—their “contemporaneity” suggested by the slim cut and bright hue of their clothing—stand in awkward, distorted, or suspended poses. Their shoulders droop one way, while their foreshortened legs lean impossibly in the other direction. A desk, implying a schoolroom or other such locus of ideological transmission, occupies the near center of the canvas, its legs tilted so that the scene’s planar surface is disjointed, opening downward rather than outward into space. The head and torso of a large, faux-winsome adolescent (most figures here appear to be lifted from advertising media) serves as a perspectival backdrop, while a pastel-pink, textured shirt and a glimpse of skin at the top of the canvas suggests an infinite regress of awkward student types, in ugly, sterile—albeit “colorful”—institutional milieus.

Hands (usually depicted in stiff, mechanical poses, as if at attention during a military inspection) and clunky shoes are often the sole points of expressive detail in Grodesky’s claustrophobic, postindustrial scenarios. 1994, XII, 1, for instance, sets three leaning “female” figures, all virtually identical (as if cloned), but of different sizes and colors, against the background of a larger, nondescript, fourth version of “herself.” A humorless trompe l’oeil places the figures alternately inside and outside an unpainted drywall office cordon that intrudes diagonally into the center of the canvas as if to define their existence in space. Their upward-lifting heels (viewed from below, in a distortion of Mantegna’s perspectival studies) provide the only suggestion of possible “escape” from the dreary confines of Grodesky’s administered world, in which distinctions between human and object have been almost entirely liquidated.

A study in black, white, and gray, 1994, X, 1—even the titles connote an assembly-line seriality—depicts a late-model car from at least two viewpoints. On the left of the canvas, the car’s sleek lines suggest the ersatz sexiness of an advertising photo; on the right, this perspective is reversed, repeated, and magnified so that the car’s grille opens out into (and creates) a high-ceilinged, high-tech space—that of a graphic design or advertising firm, or, more aptly, a contemporary art gallery. Two young professional types, workers in the office or hangers-on at an opening, lean awkwardly in the foreground, hands at sides, their “unfinished” faces afflicted with a grotesque palsy.

This exhibition of ten works demonstrated a savvy apprehension of the distorted and distorting logic of late capitalism. Yet the pessimistic quiescence of these canvases seemed to mask a deep rage against a system so all-encompassing that it threatens to subsume the power of art to critique it.

Nico Israel