This exhibition marks the posthumous New York solo debut of German artist Jochen Klein, who died last year of AIDS at age 30. On view are eight gorgeous, medium-sized figurative paintings on canvas in which humans and animals recline beneath flowering trees and glittery blue skies. The artist, with virtuosic command of his medium, creates a balance of energy and calm. But Klein never resorts to cheap theatrics in order to achieve his effects. All of these understated works are evocative of a bright and sunny summer day, and the moment when one is about to slip into a daydream.
In one canvas, a shirtless and barefoot boy lies napping under a large oak tree. One can almost hear the birds chirping, and smell the fragrance of flowers in the air. But the work is not simply about pleasure, much less hedonistic desire. On extended viewing, something unsettling creeps into the scene. Surface tensions erupt to prevent the images from being fully resolved. Collage elements appear which upset the continuity of the brushwork. Sometimes the images seem to dissipate, giving way to almost abstract expressionist passages of swirling brush strokes and poignant drips. One can only guess where Klein's formidable skills and subtle imagination would have taken him.
Jochen Klein at Feature (June 9-July 31), 76 Greene, 2nd fl., New York, New York 10012.
DAVID EBONY is assistant managing editor of Art in America.