Magazine article Artforum International

Richard Aldrich: Bortolami

Magazine article Artforum International

Richard Aldrich: Bortolami

Article excerpt

To judge from the meandering short story, fragmented catalogue essay, and two press releases (both with a distinctly self-penned feel) that accompanied Richard Aldrich's first solo exhibition at Bortolami, his is the kind of art that tends to attract not explication exactly, but rather a variety of more or less experimental attempts at verbal equivalency. Just as Aldrich's work veers from oil-on-canvas painting to mixed-media collage, and from hermetic abstraction to quirky part-figuration (with occasional textual and objet trouve interjections), so the interpretive efforts that shadow it run the stylistic gamut.

While this tendency has its frustrations (sometimes one pines for the surety of Chicago style), it also recommends Aldrich to the more active viewer. Don't seek resolution here, it seems to warn, much less clearly definable ideas. The artist himself formulates this elusiveness in terms of, among other things, "the psychedelic," by which he seems to mean that art exists (or should exist) in a unique mental space. (He certainly doesn't intend it in the popular sense of decorative intricacy or high-key color; his compositions can be audaciously bare-bones, while his palette tends toward the autumnal.)

The first painting here, Untitled (Large), 2008, certainly exhibits an introspective cast. Dark, irregular shapes float on a field of muddy gray-brown, vaguely suggesting a primitive map or even a stylized figure. Hung alone and facing Bortolami's storefront window, it made for an arguably rather forbidding introduction: a painting that stubbornly refused to seduce. But, of course, Untitled (Large) is all the more memorable for its initial reticence; Aldrich's work has a cumulative impact, and the picture invited a different kind of attention on the way out of the gallery than it did on the way in, even if its place (or the place of any of the works here) within an overarching aesthetic proved tough to isolate. …

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