Jules de Balincourt, "Unknowing Man's Nature"
Thu Sep 20 2007
Photo courtesy of Zach Feuer Gallery
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
With 16 new paintings and one forgettable sculpture, Jules de Balincourt’s hotly anticipated show is a veritable Whitman’s Sampler of the prolific artist’s colorful but bleak outlook on modern times, rendered with his characteristic faux-naive dexterity. Never one for a dull title, he bestows the exhibition with a deliciously ambiguous play on words, “Unknowing Man’s Nature,” while continuing to investigate forms of conquest, power and destruction.
De Balincourt’s use of color can be brilliant, ranging from gloriously toxic to positively Gauguinesque—as in the green, crimson and ochre tones of Cycles of Morning and Dyeing. But even a terrific palette doesn’t compensate for the thin substance of some of this work. Perhaps his popularity confirms the current appetite for political commentary that comes with a side of wit or a twist of twee. Indeed, the modernist confections of Florine Stettheimer and the storybook illustrations of Ludwig Bemelmans come to mind when looking at many of the pieces, particularly De Balincourt’s depictions of tiny figures engaged in recreational activities in sublime natural settings.
Nevertheless, it’s a show that’s easy to enjoy and—amidst the volcanoes, waterfalls, monuments, and myriad references to war and geopolitics—there are satisfying moments. The dramatic double-canvas work that gives the exhibit its name is a Day-Glo tangle of layered washes and angled lines that seems both violent and pastoral. For better and worse, De Balincourt is beating a retreat into territory that’s become increasingly abstract, arcadian and apocalyptic, all at the same time.