While there’s no theme to this two-part show, exactly, the linchpin of the whole thing is German maestro Albert Oehlen, whose canvases in the final room act as a kind of blueprint for the two other, younger, American artists. He’s represented mainly by his trademark, noughties style: a cacophonous, delirious, albeit sometimes slightly formulaic amalgamation of muddy dribbles, neon spraypaint blasts, computerish squiggles, ink-jet fragments and textual graphics – all wildly interwoven to create a knotty, nervy sensation of over-abundance. But there’s also an earlier, figurative piece from the ’80s – some doomy, shadowy architectural space, the thick paint broken up by glinting mirror panels – as well as an intriguing work from his finger-painting series, in which the fecal mark-making comes off as both a parody and a celebration of the notion of the artist’s transformative touch, the vaingloriousness of male creativity.
It’s this ironic, macho sensibility, then, which gets taken up by Matthew Chambers’s tall paintings. There’s a giant, spike-wristbanded fist, and some rough-and-ready abstract works made from cut-up, paint-slathered strips of canvas. Yet the faux-pretentiousness of the titles – ‘The Heroic Subject of All Study’, ‘Smells of Chestnuts in the Streets’ – together with a pose of punky, lo-fi disaffection, simply ends up feeling over-rehearsed, too familiar from a host of other artists.
Rather more successful is Francesca DiMattio’s work, which pushes the whole jumbly, overlapping aesthetic into a more flouncy, graphic, vaguely neo-Victorian direction. Her use of thread and floral wallpaper, or her totemic assemblages of broken vases and ceramic animals, may slightly overegg their sense of decoration and domesticity. In her smaller paintings, she combines Greco-Roman busts with patterns that look like they’re derived from Mexican wrestling masks; here, she’s hit on something that, precisely because it’s much simpler and less busy, feels stronger, odder, more wittily disconcerting.