Magazine article Artforum International

Elliott Puckette

Magazine article Artforum International

Elliott Puckette

Article excerpt

PAUL KASMIN GALLERY

The word "decorative" has carried a pejorative connotation in criticism ever since Clement Greenberg. What makes Elliott Puckette's paintings interesting is that, rather than integrate the decorative in a larger expressive purpose, the artist finds expressive purpose within the decorative itself. Her meandering lines, which at times scroll baroquely-incised with a razor, they recall the elaborate linear fantasies that Albrecht Durer inscribed in the margins of his unfinished prayer book for Maximilian I-communicate excitement, perhaps because they lead nowhere in particular, even as their curves evoke the female body. They bring to mind the scrambled contours of an odalisque, fragments of an intricate idea of the feminine.

Puckette's washy, drippy surfaces--which, in their own way, brood on the void-have a similar erotic nervousness. Her decorative conveys a desire unsure of yet excited by itself-or perhaps only a sense of misguided jouissance. Indeed, automatism, which is implicit in her lines, is a kind of masturbatory activity, a spilling of the seeds of self-excitement in a naive search for originality. If, as Roland Barthes says, jouissance is "pleasure without separation," that is, erotic transcendence, then the free-floating contours, or boundaries, in Puckette's Reckoning and Tyne, both 1999, can be read as traces of separation. But they also suggest a discomfort with pleasure--a dissonance within the field of radiant color that is the substance of her paintings. …

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