Ann Craven: Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert, Inc
Stillman, Nick, Artforum International
A hint of the uncanny shadows the deer that are painter Ann Craven's constant muses, and not only because the has artist been known to derive her subjects from calendar reproductions, film stills, and paintings by the likes of Gustave Courbet, Franz Marc, and Gerhard Richter. Craven's exhibitions are something like recurring dreams: On this occasion she presented re-creations of several paintings from her 2004 show at the same gallery, works that were themselves scaled-up do-overs of paintings from her previous outing there, in 2002.
While Craven's candy-colored canvases have drawn formal comparisons to Elizabeth Peyton's and Alex Katz's, her project is more closely aligned conceptually with ace appropriationists Sturtevant and Sherrie Levine. Here, although a phalanx of paintings showing a lone deer in a bucolic field of daisies are re-creations of canvases exhibited in earlier shows, the installation was brand-new: While a typical recent Craven show includes paintings of deer and birds, the latter were absent here, though as the show's title, "Deer and Beer," suggests, cans of mostly American domestics were available to console those who missed them.
The boozy addition was the most visible of several "conceptual contributions" that Craven invited from various artist contemporaries, including Fia Backstrom, Amy Granat, and Josh Smith. Making the (free) beer available during gallery hours, stashed on ice in a rubber trash barrel, was an idea that arose in conversation with Smith. Visitors were tacitly encouraged to indulge and scatter their empties on the floor; depending on the day's humidity, the offering seemed either sophomoric or the epitome of Rirkrit Tiravanija-like generosity.
Whatever one's take, those who imbibed were forced to relax the frantic pace of their Chelsea gallery--surfing and take in the paintings unhurriedly. …