Thomas Scheibitz has been a dependable presence in New York galleries since the ’90s, and his neomodernist approach has been just as reliable. His latest paintings and sculptures are business as usual, offering schematic lines and forms binding a deft puree of references to early-20th-century art. You may spot hints of Ernst, Grosz, Demuth, Mondrian and many others, though the guiding spirit for this show is the writer André Malraux.
Scheibitz utilizes an archive of found images as source material, and to his mind, this trove is comparable to Malraux’s career-long project of assembling art reproductions into what he called the Musée Imaginaire, or the Imaginary Museum. Hence the show’s title, which replaces Malraux’s museum with Scheibitz’s studio.
The paintings suggest what might happen if you opened an artist’s forehead and found a cartoon Cornell shadow box inside: Shallow perspective segues into flat shapes evoking walls, picture frames, tables and canvases. In one case, a face resembling an emoticon graduated from the Bauhaus crops up amid colors dominated by reds, yellows, blues and grays webbed by thick black lines.
Sculptures are featured upstairs, the best of them, Stage, consisting of a painted wood tableau that recalls Giacometti’s spooky, stagelike The Palace at 4 a.m. or De Chirico’s Love Song. The piece once again depicts a studio, this time containing an A-shaped easel. (A as in art? Or as in alpha, the point of origin?) A yellow frown shape sits between its legs, indicating that all is not well in this kingdom of creativity.
Setbacks, alas, are a hazard of the artist’s life, which itself is a time-honored subject. Scheibitz pursues the theme with a rare combination of wit and refinement.—Howard Halle