Oak Park, IL

Troy Brauntuch

The Suburban/Shane Campbell

There’s a curious intimacy to Troy Brauntuch’s recent output that feels both mysterious and cozy. Derived from sequences of shots of his studio and domestic life, these works are a confluence of allusive subject matter and scrupulously refined technique. Insinuative and elusive, precious and odd, even their medium can be read equivocally. Is a work made with conté crayon on black cotton a drawing or a monochromatic painting? Either way, Brauntuch’s application is extraordinarily skillful, with the subtlest pressure delicately evoking a cat sprawled across a snakeskin chair, a pile of gloves atop what could be a stack of books, what looks like the inside of a woman’s garment, and a lavish fur coat. These are private and hermetic subjects, snippets from some dimly perceptible conversation.

Take, for example, Untitled (Gloves on Table), 2004. Brauntuch, as in several instances in this exhibition, has treated the subject before, though from slightly different angles and with marginal differences in the application of the crayon. This small variation reinforces the work’s photographic source. It’s a veiled and fragile image, and the grayish monochrome is so loosely focused that we can only just discern its subject. But why a random pile of gloves? Why this concentration on the mundane, this summoning of stunning and complex graphic skills at the service of the overlooked and the ordinary? And why repeat the feat with only marginal differences from one work to the next?

Derived from a patient and recurring naming of the ephemeral but valued objects that surround him, Brauntuch’s work—a visual litany of the things he knows—demands attentiveness despite its disinclination to hierarchize subject matter. In Untitled (Mickey on Chair), 2004, his cat quietly lies supine, much as it did in a previous version (not on view). This repetition—again, based on a different photograph—represents a test of skill both modest and intense, like Vermeer’s reemployment of a repertoire of studio props from painting to painting. It’s a bravura performance that becomes an end in itself, an abjuration that comes to seem both wise and inevitable. A historical model is more overtly suggested by Brauntuch’s Untitled (Fur), 2003, which seems to revisit Raphaelle Peale’s Venus Rising from the Sea—A Deception (After the Bath), ca. 1822.

Whatever it is that constitutes Brauntuch’s environment, some part of it involves women. Untitled (Fur), which luxuriates in the material’s tactile flow, and two accompanying C-prints, Untitled (Emily’s Boots) and Untitled (Blonde Wig) (both 2003) attest to his almost fetishistic attentiveness to feminine accoutrements. But—and Vermeer again comes to mind—it would be misleading to read this material too iconographically. Brauntuch’s instincts always lead him, and us, toward a heightened perception embedded within a determined pursuit of the oblique.

James Yood