Irish artist Tom Molloy has such an exquisite way with a pencil, it almost doesn’t matter that his works pulse with political undercurrents. His minimal, often minuscule drawings invite you to come in close and wonder how he manages such uncannily realistic depictions. His first show in New York looks at the way visual information is communicated and framed by the media and artists alike.
Gerhard Richter serves as the foil for Molloy, who, unlike the German master, meticulously avoids artistic flourishes in his transformations of photographs. In September, Molloy replicates an image of an anonymous man looking closely at Richter’s painting of the burning Twin Towers, which is also photo-based. In October, Molloy takes on Richter again, working directly from the same newspaper photos of the Baader-Meinhof Gang that were the basis for Richter’s famous 1988 painting series, “October 18, 1977.” Daring us to draw comparisons, Molloy purposely renders a completely sharp and accurate version, restoring Richter’s edits and erasures.
DOVE (X-ray) 2 is a haunting picture of an x-rayed dove, laid flat with his wings splayed. Molloy captures the tracery of veins and arteries in the bird’s body as a scientific rendering of inner peace.
Molloy is a little less magical when he puts down his pencil for an X-Acto knife, as in Protest. You need a magnifying glass to see tiny cutout images of crowds holding signs, taken from the Internet, placed on a shelf that covers an entire wall. The effect is a bit like politics made cute—a result that’s hardly worthy of an artist who is capable of turning such material into a much more compelling form of art.—Barbara Pollack