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Back to Reviews 96

Installation View

 The Young Pines, 
J8, 1996.

The Young Pines, 
J2, 1996.

carl fudge

at lauren wittels gallery

by Michael Brennan 
This is Carl Fudge's second one-man show 

with Lauren Wittels, the first in her new 

space, and there has been some change in 

his work. These new paintings are entirely 

more rigid, with their brittle silk-

screened veins of enamel that rise upon 

gessoed wood panels. Small imprinted 

patterns dissolve all over and under one 

another to create an ever-shifting mesh of 

image and color distortion. The silk-

screened images are derived from the 

Japanese erotic woodblock prints called 

Ukiyo-E, though the images are so 

fragmentary that they are ultimately 

indecipherable. The images could just as 

easily be derived from Chilton auto-repair 

manuals or U.S. Geological Survey Maps and 

the end result would be essentially the 

same, because of the thoroughness of 

Fudge's technique. What is most meaningful 

about Carl Fudge's work is what you are 

finally seeing, the visible picture, and 

not what is encrypted underneath layers of 

paint and process. Upon close inspection of 

the tiny sections, one can make out strange 

folding reversals, or mirror-image-type 

melding, and thin, electric hieroglyphics, 

sometimes with bleeding lines, but these do 

not reveal content. Because of their 

placement these patches of popping color 

create a superstructure that forms an 

advancing, sheeting lattice, not a grid, of 

what might be described as the visual 

equivalent of feedback, a wall of white 

noise. This is particularly evident in the 

three larger multi-paneled paintings, which 

are the densest paintings. Puce is a big 

painting, with a beveled swallow-tail 

backside. Its slow rhythm and gently 

hypnotic pulse are painted in Fudge's usual 

bug colors: orange, black and yellow. The 

crushing density of the large paintings 

destroys any decorative by-product which is 

frequently the goal of any sort of pattern 

and repetition painting process. A lot 

could be said about this kind of serial, 

mechanical process and its appearance in 

most post-Pop type painting, from Warhol to 

Philip Taaffe.

One unusual thing happening in this show is 

a weird separation and reversal of scale. I 

doubt if all of Fudge's silk-screens are 

the same size, which might account for the 

phenomenon, but the silk-screened patterns 

in the six smaller and airier paintings, 

seem individually larger than they do in 

the three bigger paintings. This runs 

counter to the regular experience of 

smaller painting/reduced scale, like a 

Chardin still-life. The result being that 

the small paintings look enlarged, like a 

close-up look, or a view through a 

microscope, which like Fudge's small 

paintings, would also be the uncommon 

equivalent of small painting/large scale. 

So, my point is that the smaller paintings 

feel big and are grand in gesture, and that 

is a quality usually reserved for bigger 

paintings. Whereas Fudge's three big 

paintings here are more hazy and 

atmospheric, their colors blending and 

breaking in the cascade of repeated 

overlay. Their scale is more vague, like 

the view from an airplane; is my airplane 

now one mile or three miles above 


Another interesting effect going on here 

has to do with hardness. Any time an artist 

works on a stiff support like a wood panel, 

any mark made is immediately more graphic 

than it would be on softer, more forgiving 

materials like canvas or paper. Enamel too 

has properties of hardness. Jackson Pollock 

chose enamel because it could flash a fast, 

long, thin, fine line like liquid metal. 

These two materials come together in Carl 

Fudge's work to form a superhard surface, 

tough like Formica. The reflections of the 

gallery's spotlights on the large paintings 

are fixed and reflected intact, just like a 

counter top. This lends the paintings an 

indifferent air, making the painting less 

sensual, maybe less erotic. 

This show is impressive. Carl Fudge has a 

method of information shredding and 

recombination that enables him to make 

paintings that have an original look, and 

take giant steps past the trappings of 

conventional abstract painting. He's 

created an open system of working that move 

his content past any tired considerations 

of painting as some kind of vocabulary 

grab-bag. And he can make a great painting 

such as Hysterical Dissemination out of the 

three primaries that's unlike anything you 

have seen before.

Lauren Wittels Gallery, Oct. 11-Nov. 9, 

1996, 48 Greene St., New York, NY 10012.

Michael Brennan is a New York painter who 

writes on art.

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