New York

Dusty Boynton, Growing Up, 2014, mixed media on paper, 34 × 26".

Dusty Boynton, Growing Up, 2014, mixed media on paper, 34 × 26".

Dusty Boynton

Dusty Boynton, Growing Up, 2014, mixed media on paper, 34 × 26".

The first, most immediately striking quality of Dusty Boynton’s expressionist paintings is the forcefulness of her line: See, for instance, the pitch-black contours of the ghostly figures in Sunny Daze, 2014, or the clever interplay of rambling black and red lines in Drawing Class, 2015. This deft draftsmanship appears alongside outbursts of bright color, as in the garish red-lipstick smears that form the mouths of the female faces in Headstand, 2014, and Anything’s Possible, 2015, or the red blemishes that strangely spot the face of Potato Head, 2015.

Of the thirty-three works in this exhibition at Denise Bibro Fine Art, fifteen were on paper and relatively small, and eighteen were on canvas or linen and relatively large. Most featured a mix of oil and graphite, seemingly indiscriminately, such that drawing and painting collapsed into a single expressive field. Some of her paintings look like rapidly drawn sketches, still in process yet somehow complete; others have a more finished look, the unstable lines and flashy colors stabilizing into very individual figures or faces. The figures in Crowd, 2008, and the blotted-out face in Troubled Waters, 2015, are weird, yet emotionally familiar—morbidly fantastic. In other cases, as in Soul Mate, 2015, the forms are simply kooky.

“Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will,” Baudelaire wrote. “The child sees everything in a state of newness.” In Boynton’s work, inspired, convulsive gestural handling makes the world seem surprisingly fresh. The artist conjures the child’s perspective, expressing emotions with the intensity (and with the lack of reserve and inhibiting self-consciousness) with which they are expressed and experienced by a child. “Nothing more resembles what we call inspiration,” Baudelaire continued, “than the delight with which a child absorbs form and color.” Boynton is absorbed in form and color, clearly delighting in them as she uses them to convey emotions that seem wondrous. Her emotionally raw art—art that wears affect on its aesthetic sleeve—reminds me of one of English critic Roger Fry’s assertions: “Art appreciates emotion in and for itself.” The deeper the emotion, the deeper the art.

Adults don’t fare well in Boynton’s imagery: See, for example, the painting Cold and Over-Rated or the luridly grotesque Digadoo, both 2014. Her children—they’re all her inner child—are handled more tenderly. They tend to be tragicomic and cartoonish, like the child in Growing Up, 2014, whose body is a discombobulated pile of parts, or solemn and forlorn, like the girl in Clarity, 2015, who fixes us with her stare. Flower Painting, 2014, is particularly poignant. On the left side, the words I WANTED TO DO A FLOWER PAINTING appear in black above a small, almost invisible child figure—nothing more than a seemingly slapdash white outline. On the right side, a dazzling orange gesture blossoms dramatically on the vertical black line of a stem. Meanwhile, Fragile Moment, 2013, and Better Part of Me, 2014, suggest inward conflict and fragility, even as Boynton’s vigorous handling shows she can hold her artistic own.

Donald Kuspit