Merlin Carpenter

American Fine Arts

Merlin Carpenter is known for his frequent and strategic stylistic shifts in response to new contexts and subject matter. His shows are often constructed around contradictory tendencies, elaborating discrepancies between what a painting appears to be and how it behaves in relation to the structures that legitimate its appearance. Although “Children of the Projects” resembled a tasteless, racist joke—which on the one hand it was—it also staged a funnier (and more serious) scenario in which painting was challenged to outwit its destiny to just hang there and look like something (e.g., a racist joke).

For these images of disadvantaged urban youth, which the London-based artist painted during a recent stay in New York, Carpenter revisits the harsh colors and aggressive gestures of early-’80s neo-expressionism. Putting this played-out energy into the service of a hackneyed and illustrational

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