Ellie and I did one of our regular gallery crawls Friday, and I was especially glad to have caught a friend of many years, Scott Grieger, before his show closed at Patricia Faure Gallery. Along with the consummate skill of a meticulous painter and a deep engagement with art history, Scott has a wickedly keen satirical eye and a healthy skepticism about the values of our current cultural circumstance.
His work has ranged easily over a wide variety of topics in the more than thirty years spanned by this retrospective exhibition. Early on in his career, he was happily “taking the mickey”—as we used to say in merrie olde England—out of the mainstream artists of his day, using self portraits to ape Robert
Rauschenberg’s famous goat, for example, with a tire around his middle, tilting up against the wall like a Richard Serra, or painting a football with a Barnett Newman stripe.
He has always paid critical attention to the icons and clichés that we so easily absorb into our culture, and to which we all too often risk surrendering our humanity. With the advent of the computer age, Scott’s hand was busy doing mock medieval illuminated manuscripts to explicate technological terminology like ROM.
He had fun with those artists who delight in reducing the act of painting to making words—and with art criticism’s infatuation with semiology—in works like “BEWARE OF GOD”, whose words were painted in huge white letters against a wall-sized red (for warning, I suppose) background.
(Thumbnail version: imagine MUCH larger!) He mocked the Italian arte povera gang with the mass production of gold-plated turds (his own) entitled “Crapola” to be sold in little boxes for $50 a crack.
He can also be pointedly political: one large painting mimics a blackboard with a large map of America (think Jasper Johns) emblazoned with the chalk-written message, “United States of Anxiety.” In the era of the Bush administration, the label is uncomfortably apt.
Along with this production, Scott has always exercised his painting chops with immaculate, often quite tiny paintings that rival old masters with their precision and skill—but usually with a twist of parody or dark humor. We happen to have an example in our house: against a washy background, two diminutive deer-like creatures, realistic in detail but for the placement of miniature Frank Stella paintings where there heads should be…
So, a pleasure to renew acquaintance with a sharp intelligence and an ability to share a good laugh at the expense of some of the pretensions of the art world and the culture. I trust he'll forgive my having somewhat abused his copyright to include pictures that I have pirated from various sources. I do have, after all, a rather limited circulation…