Graham Parks at Feigen Contemporary
535 W. 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
November 29, 2001 – January 12, 2002
Graham Parks’ debut solo exhibition, at Feigen Contemporary, announces the arrival of a singular talent. Precisionist and poised, his urban landscapes capture the inadvertent funkiness of functionalism. He has found, in a pared-down language that smacks of the graphics of architectural design magazines, a perfect means of depicting the modernist built environment. Like its subject, Parks’ form is oxymoronically elegantly bland, poetically prosaic. For sure, his exploitation of a hard-edged aesthetic reminiscent of graphics, cartoons, and commercial illustration is a mainstay of artworld strategy, but these works manage to balance knowing aloofness and emotional investment. He revels in craftsy offsetting of rough and smooth surfaces and of matt and relief, allowing color schemes to veer from exquisite proximities to acid contrasts to solarizing white-outs. His discoveries of readymade abstractions in, say, the façade of a housing project belongs, of course, to a venerable tradition, more particularly of photography than painting, and the pleasure he takes in the decorative compression of space is very Japanese-cum-Viennese, but where Parks seems onto something genuinely original is in the pleasing tension his work sets up between pristine execution and an aesthetics of chance. The disposition of stencilled elements creates jazzy intervals that keep perspective jumping around. In his hands, functional illustration deftly gives way to accidental suprematism.
In an inspired coupling, Feigen have Parks showing alongside the German Frank Breuer’s photographs of coporate logos galvanizing dull landscapes. Gas stations and factories are at once neutrally documented and nonchalently aestheticized in the style of his teachers, Hild and Bernd Becher. Breuer combines the creamy ethereal light of Elger Esser and the alertness to life imitating art of Andras Gursky, both of whom must be contemporaries, but he has a quirky individuality that is welcome.