There is, no doubt, something scattershot about “Attitudes,” this year’s version of the Tripoli Gallery’s annual holiday collective. (It was officially dubbed the Thanksgiving Collective, but we are so far past that now, it seems confusing to hold on to that title, as the show has been extended though Jan. 25.)
Featuring the work of 14 artists, the group seems like a mixed bag, but Tripoli Patterson, the show’s curator, has found subtle but resonant affinities between them. Often, the works allude to much deeper associations than what is evident on their surface.
Michael Avedon, Isaac Brest, Eric Freeman, Mary Heilmann, Judith Hudson, Yung Jake, Dylan Lynch, Ryan McGinley, Richard Prince, Julian Schnabel, Nathalie Shepherd, Keith Sonnier, Ira Svobodova, and Darius Yektai fulfill the dealer’s mission for the annual show, now in its 10th edition, of mixing established with emerging, young with mature, rambunctious with restrained, or some combination.
Much of the artwork in the show has a vertical orientation, which makes the broader works more striking. At over seven feet wide, Dylan Lynch’s “Assemblage Malfunction Silky Smooth,” one of the only sculptures (Keith Sonnier’s strongly vertical “Ebo River” is the other), lays siege in the gallery’s main room. Mr. Lynch works with prefabricated materials and then manipulates them to explore relationships of balance. In this case, he suggests much more.
The large metal drum is set inside of a steel cage that suggests a shelf or stand that has weakened and broken. It is off-kilter and missing a leg, which is placed nearby. The sculpture relates a parable in miniature, not so much in the scale of the gallery, but in the universal sense. It connotes spillage and destruction. The implied mishap is small in nature here, but writ large it could be the kind of error in construction that has led to explosions, accidents, and massive leaks of toxins into the environment. His drum could have oil, nuclear waste, or chemicals, like the sulfur mustard spills from old weapons in Iraq. That the shelving at its cocked angle looks almost like a crib hints at humanity’s vulnerability to these kinds of threats.
Ms. Shepherd’s “Surfer Cats” and Mr. Avedon’s “Triptych of Humanity” have a similar wide-screen format, although neither approach Mr. Lynch’s scale. They do, however, stand out in the gallery. Mr. Avedon’s piece is a mash-up of his figurative and portrait work as a film photographer, in a similar vein as his grandfather Richard Avedon. The man portrayed is not identified, but he has a striking resemblance to portraits of Michelangelo Buonarroti. For the record, the artist told the gallery that he liked the subject’s resemblance to a Russian mobster. A cropped female form and a marble statue round out the triptych and hint at neoclassical ideals while turning them upside down, quite literally in the case of the female form, in order to modernize them. Ms. Shepherd’s painting takes the misty permanence and gravity of oil on canvas and applies it to a popular Internet meme. It suits both well.
The inclusion of Ms. Hudson and Mr. Prince in “Attitudes” was inspired curation with two works of theirs that even seem to chat a bit in the gallery space: her “Besame Mucho” watercolor and his “Untitled (Red Censor Dot Paintings: The Way She Looks in the Morning!).” One could add her “Froggy” to the mix as well.
His red paint dots, which gather on the surface in an abstracted facial expression, are attached to an existing gouache painting of an old noir-ish and risque film scene. The irony of the dots is that they are not placed over the most revealing parts of the scene usually targeted by censors. Instead, they obscure the faces, fully or partially, and parts of the background. The gun the man is holding, no doubt a metaphor for something else, and the partially clad woman’s body remain mostly or all on view. It’s a menacing, pulpy scene, and Mr. Prince dilutes it, not just with a nod to John Baldessari in the applied paint, but with one of the dusty old jokes that feature in his other work. This one also inspired the title, “How She Looks in the Morning!” The whole package feels smirky and snide and despite its mockery, leaves an icky aftertaste.
Ms. Hudson, on the other hand, plays with similarly passé tropes of sexuality, but presents them in a way that is sunnier and playful. She whispers her message on a mostly happy breeze of color, but it doesn’t lose its potency. While Mr. Prince goes for Marlboro Man imagery and vintage Playboy references, Ms. Hudson co-ops a Summer’s Eve vibe, not overtly eviscerating classic notions of femininity, but winking at us while rigorously critiquing their clichés.
Her “Besame Mucho,” roughly translated as “kiss me a lot,” is an extreme close up and crop of a female mouth biting into the reddened flesh of an apple or peach. The fruit is infused with a bilious green color, suggesting mold or mildew. The composition is so ripe with biblical and sexual connotations that it seems almost rotten with them, very likely the point.
“Froggy” shows a woman romping in nature with bluebirds lifting her dress while her frog/prince inspects her. What looks like an out-of-scale hummingbird draws nectar from her thigh. It’s a send-up of fairy tales from Cinderella to Snow White. As ridiculously anachronistic as it looks in terms of notions of modern femininity, it evokes a very contemporary obsession of little girls with Disney’s various “princesses,” a catchall for the female heroines of its classic and more recent animated films. As far as we’ve evolved in our understanding of gender, the urge for regression is still marketing gold. Ms. Hudson reveals this in all its ridiculousness, and yet does it with grace, and on her own terms.
There’s so much more, including Ms. Heilman’s acid kelly-green abstraction, Yung Jake’s intriguing use of found metal and vinyl wrap, and a touching, albeit suitably absurd, paean to Mike Kelley by Mr. Schnabel. It’s an exhibition worth seeing and discussing afterward at a nearby boite on a Southampton Saturday afternoon outing.