Magazine article Artforum International

Sam Pulitzer and Peter Wachtler: House of Gaga//Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Magazine article Artforum International

Sam Pulitzer and Peter Wachtler: House of Gaga//Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Article excerpt

Sam Pulitzer and Peter Wachtler

HOUSE OF GAGA//REENA SPAULINGS FINE ART

Post-truth, post-irony--post-exhaustion from such prefix-laden terms--it was tricky to decipher the intentions of Peter Wachtler and Sam Pulitzer in this coupling of both artists and their respective galleries, Reena Spaulings Fine Art (of New York) and House of Gaga (of Mexico City). Twenty-two carefully rendered colored-pencil drawings by Pulitzer were clipped to a quartet of flimsy wire-mesh retail display racks in the center of the main gallery of the two venues' shared Los Angeles space. Scattered throughout the room on waist-high plinths sat five of Wachtler's largish glass starfish (from his series "I Don't Want to Live," all works 2016); five sizable pastel drawings of volcanoes on mostly monochrome grounds ("I Don't Want to Die") erupted on the surrounding walls, joined by other works on paper by the artist, including a monoprint of a shamrock (titled, in deadpan redundancy, Shamrock), a watercolor landscape (River Scene), and a trio of floor-bound, vaguely dog-shaped bundles of leather respectively titled Dog 1, 2, and 3. Downstairs, in the empty foyer you passed through to access the second-floor gallery, a sign made by the artists proclaimed welcome home friend. The coyness of the gesture (did anything about this setup suggest either a domestic space or the open-armed welcome of a close friend?) set the tone for this somewhat slippery show.

The subjects depicted in Pulitzer's drawings looked oddly familiar. One was modeled after a clip-art symbol; another was vaguely reminiscent of a character from children's TV. It's the kind of saccharine poster kitsch that colors drab office cubicles or litters popular media. Floating Cheerios formed a distressed face in a spoonful of milk in Monday morning. To Be Half featured two half avocados, armed and legged, with simple faces drawn on their pits, one of which pokes out from a chubby belly, wearing a smiling face, while the other rested on the ground beside its host fruit, looking rather unhappy about it. None of the depictions struck one as original; their iconography was, rather, purposely drawn from a common, ubiquitous visual language. The crosshatched penciling evidences a soft-hued diligence, while the images themselves seemed situated somewhere between the blandly upbeat originals and an overtly cynical aping of them. …

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