One of those shows that hits you over the head in a good way, “The Other Window” features lush, rainbow-bright paintings both stationed on walls and on pedestals and the floor. It’s a funhouse sort of gig, but beautifully, self-consciously serious too.
Emil Robinson has taken care of the wall portion with handsome, studious but candy-colored lamentations/canvases (all titled “Portraits of Scientists”) that have an Ed-Paschke flourish and funk to them. There’s a Chicago Imagist vibration in each one, and yet Robinson has a cooler, saner, almost Art Deco sense of structure and palette that make each painting transform from pastiche into old-school elegance, even a little rectangular opulence. He uses paint fiercely, but also has the moxie to keep it all very tight and controlled. You have to respect that old-fashioned formalism, the peacock-intense need for color; it warms your brain and makes you feel like art can actually open a window on a warm spring day and allow everything to air out a little.
Matthew Yaeger finds his inspiration in the land of Elizabeth Murray: stylized, groovy-shaped canvas constructions that read like grounded box-kites, decorated in obsessive plaids and expressionistic slathers. You could spend an hour checking out the surfaces here, the reworking and working over of each dimension, each side. Angles slap up against brush-strokes and brush-strokes create patterns that lope and linger on and off edges. The ingenuity and verve in Yaeger’s art seems to come from an intense desire to dislocate painting from its historical wall, while also holding true to that Murray sense of humor and style; you feel each piece is a joke, but that’s what gives the works their power – that oddly shaped, puppet-town silhouette releasing a sort of gut-level joy.
In a recent Town and Country article by David Salle about the Frank Stella retrospective at the Whitney, Salle writes about Stella’s works: “Their literalness is the source of their freedom.” Both Robinson and Yaeger have a full-blooded and upfront sense of what paint and paintings do and are, and their pieces, both on and off the walls, have that same kind of literalness that Salle is pointing out: a sense of grand fluorescence freezing into a perfect and peculiar aesthetic moment, kind of like the comic timing a really smart stand-up develops at the microphone. It’s the freedom of knowing your jokes so well in your head that it all just spills out effortlessly in the telling. Both artists in “The Other Window” strut their stuff, but also mock their own sense of seriousness and self-importance by getting it all absolutely right. You feel their amusement and thrill in every little move they make.