Contributed by Zach Seeger / The group exhibit “Medium Rare” – on display at Subtitled NYC, a second-floor Greenpoint gallery with a skylight – features paintings by Amanda Ba, Jacob Patrick Brooks, Marcus Civin, Sam Cockrell, Kevin Ford, Annette Hur, and Kate Liebman. It was curated – or rather, prompted – by Jaejoon Jang, who instructed the artists to select examples of what they considered unfinished work. Without knowledge of this specification, it would be difficult for a viewer to consider the pieces unfinished. The overarching cohesiveness of the show makes each one seem resolved. In light of Jang’s command, though, they can also be seen as hovering just outside of the artists’ respective oeuvres, meeting only some of their criteria for finished work.
The show harks back to the 2016 show at the Met Breuer titled “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible.” There artists’ work was offered unabridged and revealed how the sausage was made. Journey-is-the-destination painting connected the dots between the artist in life and history and the object in isolation, like a Giacometti armature or Jacques Louis David’s painting Tennis Court Oath, which was not shown in 1794 because its subjects had been guillotined.
More and more we are asked to find our way through unending installations of simulacra. To manage this challenge, “Medium Rare” proposes that we view painting as an ensemble. The work is casual, like a loosely assembled Feltron schematic, and piecing together its formal attributes doesn’t require arduous mental gymnastics. The show tracks as a kind of visual poem: an orbiting hoarders’ shed of ideas lent just enough context to be comprehensible as a whole.
Sam Cockrell’s larger piece reveals the limitations of production, while serving a keystone to his cluster of paintings across the gallery. Marcus Civan’s piece states its executed intentions while following its self-imposed constraints. Though visually very different, both pieces code future generative action. Amanda Ba’s smaller portrait seems to conjure a detail from an early David Salle piece in order to rebuke its misogyny. Its presence is intimate and personal, and, especially in deliberate proximity to Kevin Ford’s ironic digital touch of a painting, conveys emotion.
In Jacob Patrick Brooks’s painting, forms and text jostle between alleyway flotsam and jetsam; think proto-Jonathan Meese, but don’t forget the Narcan. Its position in the show is far from Kate Liebman and Annette Hur’s quiescence. Liebman’s stacked canvases – like her double portrait on the opposing wall – hang as artifacts of indoxyl, their textures delicately painted and preserved, while Hur’s painting grounds the exhibition with its formal resolution. In the end, dense situational nuance makes “Medium Rare” Jang’s piece. As with all sincere postmodernists, his curatorial interest rejects chewing the food without swallowing, and embraces savoring it as it goes down the hatch.
“Medium Rare,” Subtitled NYC, 113 Franklin Street, 2nd floor, Brooklyn, NY. Through May 28, 2023.
About the author: Zach Seeger is a painter, sculptor, and writer working in Brooklyn and upstate New York. He has shown at Arts + Leisure Gallery, Freight + Volume Gallery, Gold Montclair, Crush Curatorial, stARTup Fair LA, Artspace Tetra (in Fukoka, Japan), Life on Mars Gallery, Room 482, and Ortega y Gasset Projects. He is a regular contributor to Two Coats of Paint and teaches painting and drawing at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.