John Lurie, "The Skeleton in My Closet Has Moved Back Out to the Garden"

The ex--Lounge Lizard and Jarmusch icon moves even deeper into the art world.

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  • The skeleton in my closet has moved back out to the garden; Photographs:...

The skeleton in my closet has moved back out to the garden; Photographs:...

Time Out Ratings

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

When John Lurie—founder of the Lounge Lizards and noted Jim Jarmusch collaborator—decided to become a full-time painter a few years back, the art world hailed his arrival: P.S.1 gave him a show and MoMA bought his work. Still, Lurie lacked representation. Now, after several years of roaming the European art circuit, he’s made Fredericks & Freiser his home, and in his honor, the gallery mounts this survey of sorts, focusing on the artist’s Basquiat-by-way-of-Dubuffet works from the past five years.

A self-taught artist, Lurie pursues his work as a vehicle for personal exploration, imprinting it with his own mordant language. The earlier pieces, rendered with watercolor and oil pastel on clay board, find him confronting an existentialist crisis. Ghostly white, alienlike figures are depicted against backgrounds of greens and browns, with titles such as 2007’s I need to know if there is life after death and I need to know kinda soon. At the time, Lurie was still reeling from the news of the illness that forced him to give up performing.

His latest paintings mark a move into oil on canvas, revealing a new economy of gesture and sense of equanimity. The more striking among them—such as the mostly white composition featuring the green, rectangular head of an Egyptian figure lying in eternal rest—radiate entrancing quietude and a confident embrace of expansive space.

Lest we think he’s become too serious, Lurie still labels many of his tableaux with long, sharp-witted titles. Though amusing, he should trust the images to speak for themselves: They say a great deal about life, death and art all on their own.—Nana Asfour

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Fredericks & Freiser, through Nov 7

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