A self-proclaimed failure after exhibiting art for two decades, Houston’s Mark Flood serendipitously hit upon a simple technique for creating sublime abstractions in 1999 that put him on the road to artistic success. Applying layers of paint through pieces of old lace, the self-taught artist made DIY paintings that had the sophisticated look of finely screened canvases. But it’s the art that came before Flood’s breakthrough—crude collages, altered thrift-store canvases, muted objects and provocative sign paintings—that are the focus of his fifth solo show in New York.
“The Hateful Years,” curated by Alison Gingeras, assembles nearly 100 of the artist’s wildest works from the ’70s and ’80s, along with a smaller selection of new lace paintings. Occupying all five floors of the gallery’s sleek townhouse, the extensive exhibition is loosely divided up according to media. Several stunning lace abstractions are on the first floor; monstrous collages of pop stars and instructional sign paintings, including Flood’s classic Eat Human Flesh, which once was in the hands of Houston authorities, are on 2; cleverly manipulated canvases, such as Whore, in which he painted the salty title and a silhouetted stick figure onto a kitsch beach painting, hold down 3; hilariously jumbled porn collages with pop stars’ heads and consumer products with painted-out logos fill out 4; and a rambling installation of a punk-rock den totally transforms 5.
Irreverently critiquing mass media, marketing and celebrity culture with modest means, Flood points out the ills of American society, while making us laugh uncomfortably at them.—Paul Laster