Richard Patterson, whose work is included in the "Sensation" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, paints compelling, photo-derived images that have little to do with realism. He starts by covering toy soldiers with globs of colorful paint. Then he photographs them and transposes the photo image to oil-on-canvas. In spite of the technical clarity, the artist seems to thwart our desire to see. The Last Detail, for example, features the head of a figure set against the backdrop of neon signs bearing part of the words "The Last Detail." Like a sci-fi monster that has invaded Times Square, the effect is uncanny.
Male Nude is a somewhat simpler image showing a figure holding a gun. The "nude" body dissolves in a reddish haze toward the background. The large canvas If shows a rifle-toting figure who appears to be engaged in a street fight.
It's not exactly clear what Patterson is saying in these works. Perhaps they are about action and reaction, or maybe he is exploring the relationship between sex and violence, or the connection between sensuality and the painted surface. More than anything, his project seems directed toward questions of the visible and what one knows exists, but is yet unseen.
Richard Patterson, "New Paintings," Oct. 22-Nov. 27, 1999, at James Cohan Gallery, 41 West 57th Street, New York, N.Y. 10019.
DAVID EBONY is assistant managing editor of Art in America.
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