JERALD WEBSTER at the Museum of New New Painting (123 Bellwoods, back), to February 5. 416-603-4111 (call first to arrange a visit). Rating: NN Rating: NN
You have to wade through lot of crap to see a Jerald Webster painting. I don't mean in front of the pleasant back-alley museum itself. I'm referring to the layers of social distortion veiling not only Webster's paintings but the whole New New movement.
Descended aesthetically from Jackson Pollock through colour field painters like Canadian Jack Bush in the 60s, the New New painters coalesced in the early 80s into a small, devoted group of artists with a small, devoted group of collectors. Their abstract works are more physical events than images, done in thick acrylic paint, often in gaudy colours. They can't get a show in New York and have been shunned and ridiculed in France, although that could be taken as an accolade.
To compensate for their excommunication, these old-school American and European painters have built up an unusual sense of their own brilliance, pouring their bared souls onto canvas as though all other contemporary painters are merely enjoying a fad, soon to be forgotten when New New is finally recognized as painting par excellence.
This attitude invites the harshest criticism and unfortunately paints the definitive wash on the work itself.
Webster's large, odd-shaped canvases fail to reveal the sublime, offering only the sad consolation that at least he believes they do.
He folds his paint in ever-thicker layers, culminating in globular forms protruding from the canvas. Both the shapes and protrusions achieve an interesting three-dimensional effect, but he only really pulls it off in one circular piece called Oort Cloud. This one I can really look at. Too often, the metallic acrylic paint sculptures repel the eye, as do the sand, the sparkles and the garish colour schemes.
It's rare to see the new looking so dated.