New York

Udomsak Krisanamis

Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

Udomsak Krisanamis lives, paints, and golfs in upstate New York. He is originally from Thailand—which is what the cellophane rice noodles that snake up and down the surfaces of his collage paintings refer to, right? Well, the answer to such a question is always “yes and no.” Think of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Thai curry dinners and the sly ways his personal life informs his art. Krisanamis’s Thai roots are less evident in his work than is his traditional approach to the craft of painting (and, I guess, his passion for golf). His art is right in line with the most venerated of modernist traditions, abstraction and collage; his densely layered, obsessively worked surfaces are like jeweled palimpsests, replete with expressive energy.

We’re beginning to let go of some of the polemics of previous decades. Painting today doesn’t have to “mean” anything per se; it is no longer obliged to break new stylistic and theoretical ground by distinguishing itself from past models. A painting can function experientially for the viewer as a purely phenomenal, retinal pleasure field while at the same time existing as a noumenal “thing in itself.” Krisanamis doesn’t have anything to say about what his paintings mean except that they speak for themselves. Indeed, the hand-wrought surfaces are articulate: The aforementioned noodles (which function more formally than symbolically), pieces of color Xeroxes patterned with numbers (mostly sixes, nines, and zeros in these works), and Magic Marker drawings are layered into mesmerizing grids that resemble satellite photographs or circuitboards—images of raw information.

The paintings have remarkable potential as visual ledgers of contemporary life, and we’re free to make all manner of associations. Significantly, the only overt reference the artist provides is to the game of golf. Photographs of the artist on the links accompany the work in one way or another. The poster for this exhibition, for example, is a lush image of Krisanamis golfing; in the catalogue/artist’s book for his ten-year retrospective on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts, plates of his paintings are interspersed with photographs of the artist stepping up to the tee, taking a shot, and striding across the green. For emphasis, the titles of some works and the occasional pseudo-imagery that slips in allude to the game. In Right in My Cup (all works 2000), a collage painting on a stretched blanket, the reference occurs not only in the title but also in the loopy pattern, like a fly’s-eye view of a golf hole, that “blankets” the surface.

Krisanamis depicts himself as a lone figure on the course, as if he’s vacationing somewhere that’s always warm and sunny, far from the maddening crowd. In a way, the golfer’s leisure is not so different from the kind of visual pleasure Krisanamis’s work affords, nor is the artist’s happy solitude so different from the position his paintings take by distancing themselves from polemical debate—as well as from zealous promotions for everything that’s new about painting today.

Jan Avgikos