Magazine article Artforum International

Jimmy Wright: Fierman

Magazine article Artforum International

Jimmy Wright: Fierman

Article excerpt

Though freshly painted and well lit, David Fierman's new Lower East Side gallery is something of a hole-in-the-wall--a very tiny, these days rare, unrenovated storefront space that lends itself to intimate and focused shows. Painter Jimmy Wright's "New York Underground," a collection of voluptuous, ebullient, and funny works on paper from between 1974 and 1976, felt especially appropriate to the charming, bare-bones venue, as his casually explicit depictions of gay nightlife--cruising, public sex, and socializing in clubs, bathrooms, and bathhouses, speak to a bygone era of downtown subculture. "This is the world of the Weimar Republic," the artist has said of the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS moment he represents here. "Too rich visually not to record."

Nude or shirtless male figures emerge from dark corners in the artist's Boschian renderings of action at the Anvil, a long-defunct Meatpacking District bar by the West Side Highway. In the washy, saturated violet-and-crimson color-ink painting Anvil #1, 1975, muscled voyeurs in the shadows watch a fisting performance on a small stage. Bathed in red light, a young man on his back, gripping his raised thighs, gazes at a mustached top. A can of Crisco seems to wink at us, illuminated by a fortuitous ray of light, near the edge of the stage. The Anvil No. 2, from the same year, seems to offer a different view of the same spot, and features similar goings-on, perhaps in the early-morning hours (by now the crowd has thinned). Slender forms, drawn in smudgy graphite, look a little sepulchral and Goyaesque. The suggestion of a red bandana in the back-left pocket of a blow-job recipient provides the only splash of color.

Wright deploys various strains of punk-inflected, cartoony, or wry juvenile figuration--his characters are sketchy, simplified, even clumsy sometimes--and in his Anvil works, these styles perfectly offset his deft references to the mood lighting of history painting's dense tableaux. …

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