Layers Better Left Unexposed

04/27/2011 4:00 AM |

Miles apart visually, Béatrice Coron‘s fairy tale-like silhouette cutouts and Robert Szot‘s partly shrouded abstract oil paintings share surprising formal and thematic resonances related to layering and concealment. These parallel inquiries sustain Juxtaposed, their two-person show at Muriel Guépin Gallery (through May 29), though Szot’s works prove much more enduring.

Coron’s teeming storybook scenes will be familiar from her popular 2009 subway art card showing a cross-section of a stylized New York cityscape full of figures toiling busily in tiny rooms and crowded vehicles. She works on a much larger scale in many of the pieces on view here, especially the project room installation “Drifting Worlds,” its half-dozen, 10-foot-tall sheets of white paper playfully concealing innumerable micro-narratives. Most of her largest pieces of cut black paper substitute Seussian jungles, castles and ships for urban environments. The silhouettes populating these ant farm-like fantasy worlds fleetingly evoke Kara Walker, except Coron’s scenarios remain innocently childish, full of dragons, giant birds and flying boats. The miniscule humanoids populating these wondrous landscapes carry on indifferently: a man sits underground reading aboard a tropical island tethered to an ascending hot air balloon in “Floating Islands” (2011). The pleasure in Coron’s cutouts has less to do with specific details than the cumulative effect of so much scalpel work that’s gone into these obsessively cutout and complex fantasies.

Szot’s canvases are also predicated on accumulations and interior views, though of a decidedly more ambiguous and ultimately more compelling sort. His abstract oil compositions are applied in layers, with larger, monochrome color fields atop denser and more intricate bold hues, which often show through the coats of muted paint. The smaller, brighter areas dominate certain compositions, while elsewhere they’re reduced to mysterious textures beneath swaths of yellow, white or black, peeking out between rounded, vaguely corporeal forms, or revealed in thin, sinuous lines where Szot has scraped away the top layer to reveal the rich palette beneath. Reminiscent of maps’ abutting territories and color field paintings, like Richard Diebenkorn‘s abstracted landscapes, Szot’s calm tectonic forms reveal brilliant flashes of bold paints gushing up at their edges. While Coron sets out to exhaustively reveal all, Szot sustains interest through suggestion and 
concealment.

(images courtesy the artists and Muriel Guépin Gallery)