No Painting Left Behind, Artforum.com
"No Painting Left Behind" at Rocksbox Contemporary Fine Art, Portland, OR
Originally published on Artforum.com
The traditional, historical view of painting is one of a considered and solitary practice, in which the painter's inimitable artistic vision is inseparable from his or her faculty of sight. Even conventional perspective corroborates this, asserting that pictorial space is only seen through a single pair of eyes. "No Painting Left Behind," a show of collaborative paintings by the Bay Area artists Erin Allen, Keith Boadwee, and Isaac Gray, undermines the notion of the suffering romantic who paints alone, offering instead a body of work created by a "team" of artists. Wired with the anything-goes decadence of an all-night party, the trio's paintings somehow manage a strong conceptual unity, depicting figures that revel in life's basic pleasures––from a cocktail and a cigarette to sex and defecation.
In spite of the vaguely hippie utopianism that underpins the collaboration, the competition of three distinct painters within a confined space is legible in palettes that tend toward muddy mixtures of color and, in some cases, prankish sabotage. In Crystal Island (all works 2010) they offer a tropical seascape inhabited by a single island of jutting, crystalline monoliths. In what seems to be a final move in the painting's composition, the island has been appended with hastily line-drawn legs and a hand at the base of one especially phallic crystal, so that the anthropomorphized atoll appears in repose, pleasuring itself. In My Room similarly evidences the artists' process, as a swastika in the center of the canvas sprouts a sparkling white glove and the head of Michael Jackson, sporting a Band-Aid over a fresh nose job. While Jackson's cartoonish visage and gloved hand conjure Philip Guston's sad figures, the ambiguity of Guston's white hoods is unsubtly replaced by the emblem of Nazi Germany. It's a punk rock shock tactic, but also an affirmation that hedonistic or "excremental" culture can be potently generative—not just waste.