Christopher Deeton: ATM Gallery

By Breidenbach, Tom | Artforum International, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Christopher Deeton: ATM Gallery


Breidenbach, Tom, Artforum International


It's not immediately clear how Christopher Deeton achieves the elementary symmetry evident in the three large paintings from his new series that were shown recently at ATM Gallery's Twenty-seventh Street space. Revealing no brushwork, the ominous black shapes that inhabit these works hover like darkly numinous apparitions against their raw-canvas backgrounds. Formed by the pull of gravity, they are the result of the artist's manipulation of support as opposed to medium. This method of moving the panels in order to direct the flow of pigment across their surfaces--at the constant risk of indelible false moves--suggests a certain meticulousness that resonates intriguingly with the paintings' soaring, obelisk-like figures. Nevertheless, the only obviously chance effects occur at the works' peripheries, as at the bottom edge of Number 64 (all works 2005), where pebblelike islands of inky pigment nestle. Deliberate paintings that also exploit arbitrary natural forces, they occupy a charged netherworld between the organic and the artificial in which the invisible hand of the divine appears betrayed.

This sense of covert control, of some private technique, is essential to the works' sense of mystery. Their haunting totemic shapes suggest the vivification of experience occasioned by ceremony, when the intensely private--whether eros or death--is communally acknowledged. While the artist borrows from Minimalism and abstraction, he finally strikes an especially lyric note. In Number 53, a soaring phallic shape is flanked by two symmetrical appendages, yet the sexual aspect of the image, while frank, is handled in a way that remains respectful of the image's sacral potential. …

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