Jules de Balincourt’s new oil paintings of soldiers, protesters and more avoid specific references, but still convey up-to-the-minute relevance. At the same time, pieces like the eponymous composition—in which overlapping handprints against a bright field of colors suggest moments of blissful human-to-human or mankind-to-God contact—evoke a release from the daily grind of aggression, misunderstanding and alienation.
Idol Hands, one of the show’s two anchor paintings, features a crowd of individuals milling about on a huge staircase, carrying signs that feature the likenesses of people who could be missing relatives or maybe political prisoners. Strangely, although the steps recall the ones in Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, a sense of urgency, fear or anger is missing; instead, we’re presented with a rather idle gathering in an idyllic town: tidy, green and peaceful, if suspiciously crowded by militaristic monuments.
However, internal conflicts abound in Off Base, a standout scene of soldiers in desert fatigues, posed as if for a photograph. Each GI seems to be split into at least two overlapping figures, a Warholian gambit implying competing identities. Are they “off base” as in enjoying R&R, or mentally destabilized by the trauma of war?
The show’s title brings to mind the 2010 Whitney Biennial’s theme of “ecstatic resistance,” or idiosyncratic, personal protest, though De Balincourt’s take seems more cathartic. With its shower of multihued patterns on a visceral red background, the aforementioned titular painting features stenciled hands that could be waving in greeting, worship or warning. Curiously, several of the soldiers’ hands in Off Base are similarly flattened, suggesting a link between the natural and the supernatural—and offering an escape route between them.—Merrily Kerr