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Schoolwerth, though also concerned with contemporary ways of looking, gladly and playfully indulges the deconstructive impulse to manipulate time and space by reassembling existing artifacts. His work, oddly, would be more at home in the NuMu's Free
than Gerrard's. Rather than generic or oddly specific architecture, he goes straight for the art historical canon. The latest pieces in the Missouri-born, New York-based artist's Portraits of Paintings
series, on view at Miguel Abreu Gallery
(through December 23), offer his postmodern, near-abstract reinterpretations of famous compositions by Gaspare Traversi, Juan Meléndez Valdés, Eugène Delacroix and the like. Earlier iterations of this project featured more filled out canvases, but the six paintings and one study here quite literally unfold against monochrome backdrops. He seeks insight through reorganization rather than reinterpretation.
Schoolwerth takes an algorithmic approach almost akin to data visualization, separating out specific parts of each original and presenting them in jarringly linear ways. So, in "Portrait of 'The Sitting'" (after Traversi)" (2010), the half-dozen figures from the 1754 original
are turned to thin, color-coded outlines and superimposed one atop the other. The rest of the canvas is evenly coated in the shade of rich brown that dominates Traversi's painting, save a few thick, expressive swaths of more vivid tones, dramatic smears of royal blue and bright orange. In "Portrait of 'Still Life With Beef, Bowl of Ham and Vegetables, and Receptacles' (after Melendez)" (2010, above), the 1772 counter-top cornucopia
's diagonal top-left to bottom-right composition remains, accentuated even, though the only figurative detail is a head of garlic floating absurdly between a squash that's blown apart and a ham whose flesh peels away from the fat in a spectacular bright red blur. Still lives are rarely so dynamic. It's the kind of spread you'd expect to find next to one of Francis Bacon's tortured subjects—in fact, Schoolwerth's nearby arachnid-eyed take on a Bernando Strozzi portrait is unmistakably Bacon-ian.
The disassembled landscape of "Portrait of 'Barge On A River At Sunset' (after Pynacker)" (2010) on the gallery's back wall may be the most radical deconstruction on view because so much of its source painting
appears intact, albeit dissected into separate elements of earth, sky and water. The composition is mostly inverted, though fluid too in its distribution of the creamy early-morning sky, serenely calm waters and bustling activity aboard the moored barge.
Like Gerrard's slowly revolving 3D architectural tableaux, Schoolwerth applies an aggressively contemporary aesthetic to previous periods' artifacts. Both artists use these relatively fixed objects—buildings, old masters paintings—to explore the unstable and fluctuating modes of present-day perception. They deploy visual systems that follow digital methods of organization: Schoolwerth arranges his canvases as if using a tagging system, with figures, land-masses, bodies of water and skies clustered together by type; Gerrard confines digital environments to a strict temporal existence, one that's doubly binding since his works repeat the same one-year cycle, rather than evolving in truly real time. Both artists re-calibrate our web-warped sensitivities to time and space.
(images courtesy the artists, Miguel Abreu Gallery and Simon Preston Gallery)