Magazine article Artforum International

Jim Torok

Magazine article Artforum International

Jim Torok

Article excerpt

BILL MAYNES GALLERY

In a 1970 interview, Chuck Close affirmed a statement made by art historian Ernst Gombrich: "The problem of illusionist art is not that of forgetting what we know about the world. It is rather inventing compositions that work." Close's tightly controlled early portraits of art-world folk make for an obvious, though ultimately unsatisfying, comparison to Jim Torok's portraits of art-world folk in his "hi tech lo tech" exhibition. But if we understand "compositions" to include problems of scale, cropping, and markmaking in the context of the realist image, Gombrich's statement is key to Torok's sensibility.

A consummate draftsman with a split personality, Torok makes tiny, exquisitely detailed likenesses in oil and graphite; he also draws touchingly crude cartoons. Like Close, he works from photographs, combining extreme scale with painstaking surface. Both of these artists use the human visage as a means to engage the photographic double whammy of mimetic accuracy and abstract flatness. But unlike Close, Torok does not make monumental claims for his hands-on approach. Pocket-size and paired with his goofy "lo tech animations," his portraits are insouciant, gregarious; they function best in a crowd. Rather than rely on photography per se, they compose themselves along the sequential, frame-after-frame lines of the movies.

The "hi tech" part of the show took up two rooms: In one, twelve exactingly realized oil paintings were presented; in the other, five pencil drawings and three earlier oils. Cropped at conventional bust length, mostly frontal and deadpan, Torok's subjects are locked in the isolating frame of the mug shot. There is a passport-photo pathos to this, but, as installed, the faces didn't look lonesome. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.