When I read that Miami collector Craig Robins actually owned 29 works by Marlene Dumas and was initiating legal action alleging that he was prevented from buying another Dumas because he had actually dared to sell one, I thought, "Please, Mr. Robins, do yourself a favor and dump all 29 on the market now." Thus, Craig would achieve his revenge against his perceived persecutors by deflating the market of a truly vague and lazy painter -- a real public service.
But let’s not solely lean on Dumas. Take Jules de Balincourt’s new exhibition at Deitch Projects. Here is a guy who is the perfect storm of bad painting. He cribs shamelessly from Peter Doig and Neil Jenney. He tends to over-paint and fill his canvases with stupid, pointless images: a guy with multiple pairs of glasses, faceless drones in canoes and on motorcycles, profile faces reminiscent of Carter Kustera’s work from the 1990s. Must paint go to die in such a messy, disjointed place as Jules’ skinny, undernourished brain?
Then there is another much-celebrated new star, painter Wendy White, soon to open at Leo Koenig Gallery. Her method is basically to put Jessica Stockholder’s three-dimensional ideas in a trash compactor and transform them into two-dimensional wall works. Thus, one faces a dull, jaggedy abstract series of crappily drawn signs, accompanied by a few swishes of the sponge in dirty water that would give even Dumas pause.
I guess the rationale for esthetic distortion to the point of entropy is that we live in a multi-valent, overstimulated technical world, so that it is simply amazing that any painter can make anything at all. Yet, even the formalists are bad, such as the thoughtful Louis Cameron, whose show of flags designed by the African-American diaspora has just been extended at the I-20 Gallery. The background of this stuff is totally fascinating and the execution is utterly awful: washed-out colors badly painted to a brittle conclusion that undermines the strength and brilliance of the mimicked sources. But that description nicely summarizes Dumas, de Balincourt, White, and, dare I say it, Luc Tuymans as well.
The soft, haphazard gesture beckons to the lazy collector and painting is reduced to nothing but shades of gray.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).