Los Angeles

Udomsak Krisanamis

Marc Foxx Gallery

Udomsak Krisanamis’ most recent series of collage paintings represent, on one level, a continuation of an earlier series of drawings that began with his arrival in this country from Thailand several years ago. Those drawings literalized the way he learned English: by reading the daily newspaper. Udomsak would take a pencil and cross out each word he understood, so that what began as vast fields of print with only an occasional graphite mark, progressed, along with the artist’s increasing knowledge of English, into allover fields of thickly layered graphite out of which an unknown word occasionally peeked.

The collage paintings began with a similar process of erasure; in this series the surface of the newspaper is effaced by a spreading stain of black Magic Marker. However, in these works the interruptions in the black field are not produced by unfamiliar words but by the negative space inside letters: the hole of an O or in the top half of a P. To construct these paintings, Udomsak engages in an obsessive process of searching through the newspaper for “holes” of the same size, which he then tears out and dips in glue before affixing them to the canvas, creating a dense, puckered surface. With their patterned masses of blackened newspaper, these works reference Robert Rauschenberg’s “Black Paintings,” but beyond the apparent formal affinities lies Udomsak’s unquestionable sympathy with what critic Helen Molesworth, writing in a recent issue of October, described as the underlying anality of Rauschenberg’s project.

As psychoanalyst Ernest Jones explains, “Books and other printed matter are a curious symbol of feces presumably through the association with paper and the idea of pressing (smearing, imprinting).” Udomsak, however, is not content to allow the reference to anality to remain an unconscious manifestation; rather he makes this connection explicit not only through the compulsiveness of his practice, but through the recurring motif of the hole—the orifices that puncture the dense surfaces of his paintings. In the most striking work in this series, a thrift-shop blanket rather than a canvas is used as a ground, on which the mounds of collaged elements, with their viscous, swelling stains, are applied. The use of the blanket, symbol of childhood dependencies and fixations, adds another dimension to Udomsak’s invocation of the scatalogical—it evokes the infant’s fascination with its own feces, which are its only means of signaling compliance with or rejection of environmental constraints. This process of understanding, based on the body and its functions, creates a productive tension with the acquisition of language—a much later epistemological process—to which Udomsak refers in his use of the newspaper. Indeed, as Freud discusses, it is the knowledge of bodily particularity that must be suppressed in order to stimulate the higher faculties: the base functions of the body must be sublimated into the shape of the body as a whole to produce art. Udomsak’s collage paintings refuse this sublimation and instead revel in the pleasure of the excremental—covering, smearing, pressing, and gluing. A pleasure that seems to obliterate the far more dubious satisfaction of learning as the newspaper disappears beneath the shiny and impervious surface of Udomsak’s elemental glue.

Andrew Perchuk