When is a painting not a painting? An exhibition at Simon Lee poses this conundrum with a selection of enigmatic works by gallery artists. The premise of the show is found in the word accrochage, the principle of hanging or coupling works in the tradition of a summer exhibition. However this carries a further twist; on closer examination none of the paintings is a proper painting, in conventional terms of expressive handwork and composition. The show starts with the veteran conceptualist, On Kawara, who represents each day of his life with a beautifully concise dated white on black canvas. He has made this record for over forty years, and the object encourages thoughts of mysterious rhythms in the life trail. Some pieces have a political edge; Merlin Carpenter presents a classic Burberry blanket as an icon for a particular social class. The abstract pattern with its discreet tints of soft ochre and grey forms an oblique statement of English bourgeois aspiration.
Sherrie Levine's Twelve Check Painting is an attractively economical work made with graphite on mahogany blocks, like a chess board that morphs into a perfect abstract painting. The play between the original and reproduced is explored by Christopher Wool, with a swirled painting scanned to screenprints and realigned size for size. The spirit of Andy Warhol is here, also infusing a large work by John Armleder, of repeat stencils of a simple flower shape to a regular measure, making the canvas versatile in its hanging. "Finding the art," now means penetrating a web of discreet questions posed by the maker. The gallery views the exhibition as the result of a continuing dialogue with the artists, some of whom know each other, but are each attuned to their particular and critical way of thinking and working in postmodern culture.
(All Images Courtesy the Artists and Simon Lee Gallery. From top-bottom: MERLIN CARPENTER, The Resistance Movement, 2008, Wool blanket on a stretcher frame, 142.5 x 112 cm, 56 1/8 x 44 1/8 in., Edition of 5; SHERRIE LEVINE, Untitled (12 check paintings), 1998 Pencil on cherrywood, 12 parts, Each: 60 x 16 x 1 cm, 23 5/8 x 6 1/4 x 3/8 in.; ON KAWARA, OCT.13, 1970 / MAY 7, 1980 / NOV.22, 1990 / APR.16, 2000, Liquitex on canvas in hand made cardboard box with newspaper clipping, Four decades of Date-Paintings , 1) OCT.13, 1970: 25.5 x 33 cm, 10 x 13 in., 2) MAY 7, 1980: 25.5 x 33 cm, 10 x 13 in., 3) NOV.22, 1990: 25.5 x 33 cm, 10 x 13 in., 4) APR.16, 2000: 25.5 x 34.3 cm, 10 x 13 1/2 in.)