It’s no surprise that Peter Doig’s highly coveted pastoral scenes bear little resemblance to the paintings he created at the start of his career. Yet his early efforts, collected here in a lively display, energetically contain the seeds of his mature work.
The paintings and drawings on view were created between 1980 and 1988, while the artist was earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Conceived as Doig was just discovering how to paint, these edgy works riff on the artists of the moment—from Andy Warhol and Keith Haring to Jörg Immendorff and A.R. Penck.
Doig’s 1982 painting The Vessel Lounge documents a road trip from Toronto, where his parents lived, to New York via much of the South, including Nashville and New Orleans. Several related pieces capture iconic NYC skyscrapers (the Twin Towers, the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings) mashed up with cars, girls and guns, while other works highlight movie cowboys, strippers and further stops on Doig’s travels. Taken as a whole, the show captures the artist’s first steps toward his poetic portrayals of people and places in painterly realms.—Paul Laster