Review: John Stezaker

New York catches up with an undersung British artist.

  • Photographs: Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery

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    Station of the Cross

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    Installation view

Photographs: Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery

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Time Out Ratings :

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

Widely exhibited in Europe over the past three decades, British artist John Stezaker made his first New York solo appearance in a 2006 show of surreal, figurative collages at White Columns. Since then, his smart, appropriated images have gained critical acclaim in New York and serious interest from American collectors. Returning to the city for his second solo show, at Friedrich Petzel Gallery, Stezaker exhibits two bodies of work made between 1979 and 1992: silk-screen paintings of fragmented bodies and representational forms; and cutout silhouettes of movie stars from magazine tear sheets. Together they reveal an undersung postmodern pioneer who should be considered on par with Jack Goldstein, Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine.

One of the most provocative pieces on view is an untitled silk-screen painting from 1980, of two views of a nude, female torso repeatedly printed across a large, horizontal canvas. Reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, Stezaker's appropriated porn star travels in an altogether different direction, while seemingly fondling herself, thanks to the accidental yet humorous placement of her multiplied hands. Other silk-screen paintings offer inky voids set off by strange, bark-covered frames, disembodied heads and stark white shapes floating against black backgrounds.

Complementing the paintings is a series of 1979--80s collages, titled "Dark Stars." Selecting magazine images of movie stars caught in a glowing light, Stezaker cut the celebrities out of the pictures and mounted the backgrounds on black paper to create personae who now seem much more ominous: a psychologically charged cut-and-paste ploy that the artist has continued to use successfully to this day.

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Friedrich Petzel Gallery, through Feb 12