JOSEPH DRAPELL and JIRI MALIK at the Museum of New New Painting (123 Bellwoods, rear), to May 15, Saturday 3-5 pm or by appointment. 416-603-4111. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
In a pretty gallery hidden in an alleyway, a group called the New New Painters continues to fight a Modernist battle that has already been won.
Joseph Drapell and Jiri Malik are among a Clement Greenberg-inspired band of abstractionists whose revolutionary, as they put it, twist comes out of the materials they use: "technologically new" metallic and fluorescent acrylics with the density of oils. Both artists are concerned with mass, colour and light. Drapell swirls grooves of glitter to create rippling surfaces, while Malik emphasizes movement through the sculptural properties of the paint.
Yet with the exception of Malik's more monochromatic works, the paintings feel discordant, failing to excite the eye or mind. Most of the work is strikingly ugly -- ugly in a way you rarely see and for reasons you wouldn't expect.
The source of the problem may be the artists' decision to work "as if the last 40 years of official art never existed." What do they mean by "official art"? Given the pluralistic climate of the past quarter-century, protesting some dominant movement is absurd.
They also claim an "indifference to mere fashion," but it reads more like a preoccupation with one historical style. It's as if they're trying to do what they hope Greenberg, Jackson Pollock and others would have applauded, but this leaves the contemporary viewer out of the conversation.
By trying to break ground where the ground has already been broken, they seem to have lost their own aesthetic bearings.