Andrew Sexton: Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery
Kastner, Jeffrey, Artforum International
A series of wry inside jokes instantiated via improbable materials and processes, Andrew Sexton's recent solo debut was built around what at first seemed a similarly unlikely organizing principle: His drawings and multimedia conglomerations were devised as "portraits" of friends and family members. Although its symbolic vocabulary occasionally suggested a familiar brand of neo-Gothic kitsch, Sexton's bricolage nevertheless managed to avoid the self-conscious seriousness that often plagues work in the idiom, forgoing moody introspection for genuine exuberance. And the artist was comfortable enough to occasionally play things for laughs as well--the individual assays, like the show in general, mostly pulled off the difficult trick of being simultaneously funny-strange and funny-ha ha.
Sexton, a 2005 Yale MFA grad, often taps former classmates as subjects. Adrian Wong, 2006, one of two slightly anomalous works on paper, apparently celebrates a fellow sculptor through a dense cartoonish drawing in ink and soy sauce on rice paper. Meanwhile The Yellow Rose of Texas, 2006--a huge construction of painted aluminum suggesting a map of the Lone Star state, coated with ochre flocking and pimped out with electric blue fiber optics and LEDs--was emblazoned with the word ROSSON (undoubtedly for the Dallas-born painter Rosson Crow) in an especially juicy '70s "Price Is Right"-style font.
For a certain demographic, the subjects of and references in Sexton's "portraits" may ring some bells; for those outside looking in, they're intriguing (if abstruse) vehicles for a risk-taking mode of assemblage that endows unlikely collections of objects with narrative resonance. Louis Hopper, 2006, for instance--probably the only work of art in history to involve a skateboard, a cobra-head beer tap, and a skull made of aged Cheddar cheese--vividly captures a funky burnout milieu, right down to its black Spinal Tap-style wall-painting backdrop and the mingling aromas of stale ale and party food left too long on a kitchen counter. …