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Ridley Howard
The Blonde
Zach Feuer Gallery

Amy Gartrell
She Thought He Was the Bottom of the Barrel, I Thought Him Quite a Prize
Daniel Reich Gallery

Jim Wright at Rare Art

Tim Gardner
Untitled (Family Portrait 1)
303 Gallery

Works by Matt Jones (left) and Kadar Brock at Buia Gallery
The Decline and Fall of Painting
by Charlie Finch

Its a paradoxical truism that, in an era with more art-world energy, action and money in play than ever, bad derivative painting is everywhere.

Ridley Howard is a hot name currently on view at Zach Feuer Gallery, where collector Hubert Neumann snapped up a brace of Howard's canvases. True, there is one gorgeous work in this show, the head of a winsome blonde contrasted with an aquarium and a Jasper Johns abstraction. Everything else is just warmed-over Magritte, flat and uninspiring pseudosurrealism.

At another hot young space, Daniel Reich, Amy Gartrell, a favorite in indy music circles, samples a maudlin Pre-Raphaelite sensibility. Dapper Daniel gave P.S.1 founder Alana Heiss an intimate tour of this stuff at Amys opening.

Gartrell's portraits of past lovers and others cobble together motifs from Andy Warhol, Fillmore West posters of the '60s and Dante Gabriel Rossetti to produce an icky, sickly mess that we defy the collectors who purchase them to endure for even a week. Tant pis!

Over at Rare Art, Jim Wright lays on a colorful show of acrylic in hot-selling works priced up to $25,000, based on Appalachian jug bands and other such moonshine. Rare Art is a monthly shrine to the baddest of bad painting, and Wrights work doesnt disappoint, throwing riffs from Peter Saul, Ivan Albright, Jay Davis and Inka Essenhigh into his studio blender. May we suggest a new career?

Even painting whose premise is novel and a little scary fails on close inspection, such as Tim Gardners weirdo pastels of his family based on photographs. Expertly applied to projected images, Gardners sensuous pastels spread and distort his familys faces until they transform into a planet of the apes.

But, walk around the block and check out Gardners show again. The work turns banal, repetitious and unbearably ugly. In short, Tims trick doesnt stick.

The baddest of the bad, perversely and deliberately so, is a twin show by Cooper Union buddies Matt Jones and Kadar Brock at Buia Gallery. Jones is obsessed with the number 12 and Brock considers himself the Hans Hoffman of triangles.

Weve told these gentlemen many times that they are the worst painters of the new century, and they just laugh and laugh, because they know it. The energy of their opening at Buia was giddy with pure awfulness. Are Jones and Brocks pieces so bad that theyre good? Only if youve never seen a painting before, which can also be said for every work in Chelseas current houses of horror.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).