new-york

Robert Hawkins

Half Gallery @ 16 Morton Street

Robert Hawkins’s first solo exhibition in New York in a decade marked the welcome return of a native of the 1980s and early ’90s East Village art scene. The five paintings displayed are at once brooding and celebratory, a triumph of a kind of “outsider” aesthetic that refuses to be pinned down to one attitude, whether cynical, fantastical, or satirical. If Hawkins’s art expresses all of these in gratifying, protean proportions, it is also deeply lyrical, and infused with a devotion to the painterly that transforms the work into delirious and lurid achievements of formidable artistic magnitude.

For these works, Hawkins has taken the circus as subject, and it’s appropriate to read them as brooding, phantasmagorical, and rather Victorian allegories of a contemporary epoch that has given itself over to those late-empire staples, mass spectacle and decadence. Yet if Hawkins’s figurative take on

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