Chicago

David Ingenthron

65GRAND

David Ingenthron’s recent work might be thought of as slacker neo-surrealism, consisting as it does of meandering excursions into a strange but gentle fantasy universe where much is evoked but—purposefully, of course—little is resolved. Ingenthron drifts across mediums, styles, and formats, finally suggesting that integrity can exist within ambivalence, and that honest indecision is the best policy. The drawings, sculptures, and paintings in his recent exhibition evoke a stream of consciousness—albeit a stream that branches off into odd pools, forgets it’s a stream, or suddenly flows backward.

Attachments Thread (all works 2007), for instance, presents five different profiles. It begins with a weird, clumsy, gritty plaster-and-sawdust figure painted a pop pink, its somewhat forlorn black face also drizzled with the color. It has no arms, and stands on one leg while the other stretches out horizontally, almost as if the figure were dancing. This is accompanied by five caricaturish plaster attachments (a green hoop, a scooped-out gray shell, an ancient Egyptian head, an encrusted branchlike form, and a smooth, pale head) that can be screwed one at a time onto the end of that extended leg. None of these attachments particularly resolve the figure; they are playful options that make the viewer a collaborator, postponing the sense of the object ever being finished. But while Ingenthron may choose to elide stability of meaning, he still provides the context of mood; whatever attachment you append to the figure, it remains frozen in a kind of pathetic ballet position.

Triumph, a sculpture in plaster and papier-mâché, also pits decision against indecision. A slender figure rises from the floor to the ceiling, its neck appearing to penetrate the roof. It stands atop a yellow block that resembles a head, and its body language makes it akin to David standing over the severed scalp of Goliath. An odd pinkish pustule erupts out of the side of the figure, near its hip, a tumorlike zit of such proportions as entirely to deflate the heroic stance of this striding male, rendering its rhetorical pose pitiable and absurd, like some meeting of Bazooka Joe and Alberto Giacometti. It’s a monument for a postmonument world, where a macho pose of triumph seems particularly bankrupt, and Ingenthron’s ploy of suggesting that the head of this figure soars far beyond our sight provides it an empty generic masculinism.

The largest painting in the show, I Knew, I Thought, is another fragile disembodied effort, this time about nature. Three bulbous pink floral forms hang on impossibly thin stems, like balloons on a string or an Alexander Calder mobile, all placed before a gray wall set in a field of sky blue. The work is amiable in a slight sort of way, the product of a kind of conceptual impressionism, in which the activity of painting with these great colors became so groovy that Ingenthron started to pursue it instead of some overarching narrative structure. While the two smaller works on paper suggested more psychological depth, Ingenthron’s efforts approach the condition of pop music, occasionally capable of surprising nuance and depth, but willfully constrained by a kind of internal brevity, by an instinctive desire to please, concluding that it might be more interesting to relax and drift than to hector and dictate.

James Yood