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Back to Reviews 96

Musical Comedy
Medley #6, 1995

Musical Comedy
Medley #4, 1995

Musical Comedy
Medley #3, 1995

Musical Comedy
Medley #2, 1995

Musical Comedy
Medley #7, 1995

thomas trosch
at jessica fredericks

by John Zinsser

Thomas Trosch makes aggressively foppish 

paintings. Huge-eyed figures, decked out in 

period fashions and all manner of filigree, 

stand and address each other with cartoon-

style speech bubbles. 

In this show, called "Musical Comedy 

Medley," the words have been co-opted from 

musical comedy lyrics of the '40s and '50s 

penned by the likes of Cole Porter and 

Lorenz Hart. (In a hilarious previous 

series, Trosch appropriated texts from 

Japanese instructional books meant to teach 

businessmen English). 

Trosch presents his loaded tableaux on 

white paper-like grounds. He sketches in 

parts of his figures in graphite pencil, 

loads up other areas with brushed or 

palette-knifed impasto surfaces and 

generally lets sloppy physical 

painterliness run the gamut. In this 

respect he comes across as a kind of drag-

ball version of Cy Twombly. A more obvious 

historical reference, though, are the 

exquisitely eccentric social dioramas of 

Florine Stettheimer from the '20s. 

(Trosch's work was in fact included in 

Michael Duncan's recent curatorial homage 

to Stettheimer's work at Holly Solomon 


In Musical Comedy Medley No. II (with 

lyrics by Lorenz Hart, with various book & 

play titles), 1995, two women stand in 

thickly-painted gowns looking at a framed 

painting of a woman in Victorian evening 

dress with full bustle and accompanying 

parasol. All three figures are rendered in 

gobs of frosting-like paint. (They look 

displaced from a Carvel ice cream cake). In 

the left foreground, a generic Jean Arp-

like modernist free-standing sculpture vies 

for attention. One woman has a thought 

balloon with text that says (in part): 

"First I am serious then I'm delirious, the 

change in temperament is quite mysterious. 

My teeth are chattering. My brains are 

scattering away. That's love that's 

love...." The other woman's speech balloon 

is filled with a run-on stream of book 

titles: The Romantic Age Summer and Smoke, 

The Outrageous Mrs.Palmer, The Climax of 


More telling, perhaps, of Trosch's own 

feelings is the speech of a woman in a 

Westchester Country Club-style pool party, 

who says, "Which is dreamier, Arcadia or 

Bohemia?" Or the utterance of a "musical 

comedy" character from a third painting, 

who states, "I thoroughly pitched the woo, 

from the heights of Valhalla to Kalamazoo."

Overall, it's the overdetermined physical 

nature of Trosch's paintings that lifts 

them above being mere wry ditties. His 

pictures veer toward disaster with their 

scrapes and scumbles and cascades of paint 

(think mid-career Malcolm Morley). 

Moreover, there's a sick quality not unlike 

that found in "outsider" art that keeps the 

Trosch's program edgy and gives it an of-

the-'90s feeling.

A note on the gallery: Trosch formerly 

showed with Jose Freire (Fredericks' old 

boss). Fredericks' gallery is a fresh 

addition to the West Chelsea strip, housed 

in the below-stairs level of the single 

townhouse on the now-established 22nd 

Street Dia block. To date it has done solo 

shows with Eric Wolf and John Wesley.

May 22 - June 30

Jessica Fredericks Gallery,

504 West 22nd St., 633-6555

John Zinsser is a New York painter and