New York

Scott and Tyson Reeder

Daniel Reich Gallery

Brothers Scott and Tyson Reeder are musicians, filmmakers (Scott’s feature-length Moon Dust is currently in postproduction), and curators (most notably, they helped organize the Dark Fair at the Swiss Institute last March and co-organized “Drunk vs. Stoned” at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise a few years back) and are among the owners of the Milwaukee gallery General Store. They are also painters. Although they have been shown together before, the Reeders’ paintings are decidedly one-man affairs, each brother’s work maintaining its independence in style, medium, and attitude. Besides their penchant for working collaboratively in other contexts, then, the reason for exhibiting their paintings together seems unclear, particularly if they are hung, as they were in Daniel Reich Gallery, in the one-for-you-and-one-for-you style that parents often resort to with rival siblings.

The exhibition risked appearing not only as a simple comparative exercise—Scott works in oil, while Tyson utilizes a mix of materials, including acrylic, oil, pastels, and pencil—but also as a tit-for-tat that insisted the viewer choose a side. The brothers’ titles indicate their different approaches to painting: Scott favors two-word alliterative titles (Crusaders Cuddling, Rectangles Relaxing, Flounders Fucking) that imbue the works with a slacker’s sarcasm; Tyson, by contrast, betrays a dry sincerity and diligence—Woman with Pink Piano, Woman with Keyboard, Woman with Vase.

Each of Tyson’s six new works depicts a solitary subject absorbed in the task of making music. The small paintings, as small as fourteen by eleven inches, depict their subjects in an expressionist manner, and, in their garish (at times fluorescent) colors and profuse patterns, hail their Fauvist predecessors. But they are filled with the weariness of one who feigns artistic introspection rather than experiences it. In Woman with Pink Piano (all works 2008), for instance, the player, seated stiffly in profile at the instrument, has a cornflower-blue complexion that is contained by an outline of beige. The unnatural color of her skin recalls the strident hues of expressionism, but any sense of immediacy in Tyson’s brushwork is undermined by the cool precision with which he colors within the neutral-toned line.

Tyson’s performed introversion is matched by his brother’s frivolity. Scott personifies modernist abstraction’s characteristic shapes: Squares and rectangles take leave from the onerous demands of high modernism; they soak in the hot tub and sit for candlelit dinners. In Rectangles Relaxing, three monochrome rectangles (presumably canvases) are partially submerged in a hot tub, an aqua oval against a brown ground, flanked by wineglasses. His animation ridicules the pathetic fallacies so often resorted to when describing abstraction. Rather than having the viewer add a personifying adjective, Scott literalizes the descriptions: Two rectangles, one positioned horizontally before the other, become, in Scott’s painting, a stick of butter beneath a bedsheet watched over by a piece of bread. Scott’s paintings aren’t whimsical; they are too heavy-handed in their mockery for that. Yet their sarcasm is at times accompanied by a pitch-perfect absurdity, and the result is startling. In Panda Protest, for example, black-and-white rectangles—laid out in the style of Hans Arp’s Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance), 1916–17—become placards for protesting panda bears, themselves blotted dabs of black-and-white paint. The demonstrating pandas poke fun at artists’ attempts to connect abstraction to a natural world, particularly one accessed through chance, as in the case of Arp, without ever denying the political significance of Arp’s aleatory gestures. Marching chaotically with these blank signs, the panda bears temper Scott’s derision through a fey conflation of representation and abstraction. In this balancing act, his lampoon of geometric abstraction shines.

Rachel Churner