If you watch TV and go to galleries both, there is a tendency to stay glued to artworks that provide a vulgar attractiveness along with a dose of idealism. My first attraction to Elliott Green's latest paintings was as a blind man who can only make out shapes -- attractive shapes -- against the light. When I actually focused on the works I saw penciled figures of a scruffy cast of comic characters, parleying their wacky appearance into tragicomic theater starring Deputy Dog via the New Yorker's James Thurber. Figures, not human, well-dressed, alienated, needy, passionate and all stretched-out. Very cool.
Did you ever have the feeling that something is great because you like it? That does not mean that it IS in fact great but the feeling is hard to resist. We may have a case of that here. Then again, we may not. Kim Levin at least wrote in her eruptive and forthright Village Voice Voice Choice that this show was "a great leap forward" and that the works were "sublimely nasty."
Previously Green's paintings demanded a close-up viewing. Small, colorful and cartoony, and unsettling, is how I would describe the works I saw at Fawbush three years ago. Now the paintings are large, a uniform 80 x 60 in. Stark contrast sets the stage for compositions waiting for Samuel Beckett. The panel is painted a stripped-down and monochromatic celadon, the figures' clothes painted in rich black swatches. Under layers of oil-resin glazing the pencil drawings show urbane, clutching, sexed-out doggy faces passion-dancing a desperate effect. The overall effect is Franz Kline after Hanna Barbera.
In his cartoons, Green sketches an abstract narrative that is like a razored dreamscape. He has advanced a fresh voice in a genre that's fairly gassed out.
By the way, are those little farm drawings in the background of each picture ideal, or what?
Elliott Green, Jan. 10-Feb. 7, 1998, at Postmasters Gallery, 80 Greene Street, New York, N.Y. 10012.
PAUL H-O is a New York artist and producer of the public-access television show, Art TV.