Review: Christian Schumann, "Mirrors and Gardens"

In Schumann's latest work, pop culture becomes as wild as nature.

  • Photograph: Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery

    Christian Schumann, Birds of Paradise

    Christian Schumann, Birds of Paradise

  • Photograph: Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery

    Christian Schumann, Gardening

    Christian Schumann, Gardening

  • Photograph: Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery

    Christian Schumann, Insiders

    Christian Schumann, Insiders

  • Photograph: Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery

    Christian Schumann, King's Loss

    Christian Schumann, King's Loss

  • Photograph: Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery

    Christian Schumann, Mirror Men

    Christian Schumann, Mirror Men

  • Photograph: Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery

    Christian Schumann, Reopening

    Christian Schumann, Reopening

Photograph: Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery

Christian Schumann, Birds of Paradise

Christian Schumann, Birds of Paradise

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Christian Schumann's paintings have evolved dramatically over the years, from patched-together fields of cartoon characters to abstract monochromes comprising thousands of little lines to pileups of alien detritus. His recent works blend Picassoid psychedelia with carnival sign painting to create densely packed, tightly rendered scenes in which humans, toys, flora and machines morph into and out of each other with meticulous precision.

In Gardening, a man, woman and child are barely apparent among the teeming activity that surrounds them. Their bodies blend into a brightly hued hallucination of flowers, lily pads, snakes, ducks, orbs and bursting lollipops. In Re-Opening, one figure pokes into the body of another, like Doubting Thomas in a hyperanimated, rainbow-colored matrix of oozing, shattering forms. Birds of Paradise contains the most visually discernible narrative. An ice-blue flayed man lies on the ground screaming while various figures in warmer hues stand around him. A horse, a musician, a devil and a king are among the attendants, like archetypes in an adolescent entheogenic haze.

The disorientation of the mirrored fun house and the controlled chaos of the garden may be the ways to understand this show, which is, after all, titled "Mirrors and Gardens." If the concept of the walled enclosure (the meaning of the original Persian word for "paradise") could be construed as a metaphor for painting, then perhaps Schumann is taming the fragmented and distorted turbulence of pop culture, cultivating it within the bounded plot of the canvas, the way a gardener disciplines the wildness of nature.

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