One of the original YBAs (Young British Artists) who gained fame in the 1990s, Richard Patterson is known for paintings of various images or objects overlaid with heavy daubs of paint, all rendered with photorealistic precision. Several of these form the heart of his first New York show in more than a decade, constituting a mini retrospective of sorts.
The results are frequently enchanting. In Young Minotaur (1997), a green half-man/half-bull toy figure is blown up to human size. He looks toward a vista of blurred lights, while a convincingly illusionistic, vertical smear of impasto hovers next to him, sharing both his scale and his coloring. An updated allegory of painting, the canvas possesses a sly, economical Pop Art sensibility and a smooth touch. Smaller canvases covered in actual applications of thick paint seem like studies for Patterson’s faux brushstrokes.
Too often, though, the exhibition ignores Patterson’s gifts as a painter in favor of dumb objects—a vintage motorcycle parked in the gallery, racing leathers hung on a ladder—and uncritical images that tediously rehearse the privilege of a straight white male artist. A series of collages mashing up modernist interior design, gestural abstraction, and women’s bodies from pornography and advertising seems especially tired. Still, Fair Park Constructivist Pavilion Extension (1999–2014), a diminutive architectural model housing a row of toy soldiers slathered with pigment, suggests a collapsing of phallocentrism and painting into the sort of absurdist war memorial I think we’d all like to see.—Joseph R. Wolin