New York

Joe Andoe

Feigen Contemporary

“All of us had police records, some more than me. But still, before I was sixteen, I got busted for acid and was put in jail over night on two hits of it. Then I got arrested for driving under-age and had to work at the zoo. At sixteen I got a car that I totaled and went on to total three more and was charged with DWI, DUI, and reckless driving and busted for drugs three more times before I was done being a teenager.”

New York painter Joe Andoe’s confessional short story “Out on the Perimeter” (2004), reproduced as an introductory wall text, set the stage for a collection of suitably rough-hewn canvases dominated by scenes of the artist’s teenage bad-boy antics in late-’60s and early-’70s Tulsa. Interspersing images of stripped-down cars bombing down rural highways at night with sultry portraits of girls in various states of undress and intoxication, Andoe conjured a darkside Americana familiar from the work of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine (specifically Clark’s “Tulsa” photographs, 1963–71, and the duo’s collaboration on Kids [1995]), David Lynch’s postmodern road movies Wild at Heart (1990) and Lost Highway (1997), and the sex ’n’ death novels of Dennis Cooper.

Andoe’s vision is cinematic in its wide-angled viewpoint but has none of the smooth texture of celluloid. Rendered in muted dark or sepia-toned oils, the application of which veers unpredictably from smeared impasto to dry scrub (images are often made by wiping paint off the surface of the canvas rather than layering it on), these pictures suggest photographs bleached by the desert sun or found lying half-buried by the side of the road. The fuzzy grays of his image of a speeding white car and the violent reds of his depiction of a siren in jean shorts leaning back on a bed point to a use of color that is at once rigidly disciplined and richly evocative, worn down to the bare essentials. A three-dimensional equivalent might be Richard Prince’s “Hood Paintings,” 2003–2004, in which the titular car parts are given a painterly “weather-beaten” patina. Andoe’s compositions too are stark and focused, his backgrounds largely restricted to foreboding skies streaked with high clouds, his figures stylized and silent.

Invariably, the people Andoe paints—drawn from personal and cultural memory—exude a noirish cool. In one large portrait, a woman’s face appears, like the image in a locket, framed in an oval cloud of paint and surrounded by a dreamy pastel blue haze. Another depicts a waiflike creature, hair cascading over her bare breasts, clutching a brew with both hands. The landscapes inhabited by these characters are distinctively Oklahoman—expansive, and troubled by history only as it is made manifest in gradual economic decline—yet their openness is consistently upset by an echoing melancholia and the possibility of imminent disaster. Andoe’s study of an unnamed lake feels more like a crime scene than a pastoral idyll; the foliage might hide some terrible evidence, and that water looks as hard and dry as gunmetal. A painting of an empty road vanishing into the distance under a darkening sky is similarly ominous, a route straight through to the middle of nowhere.

“This was just the way things were,” claims Andoe in defense of his checkered past. “I didn’t know any different. I knew it was bad and it drove my folks crazy. Then I discovered painting.”

Michael Wilson