Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / In an adventurous departure from drawing and collage, Steve Greene now offers intriguingly acerbic abstract paintings in his solo show “News From Nowhere,” on view at Frosch & Co. They are rich with sharply drawn shapes and robustly differentiated visual content, yet they require little deliberation to be appreciated. They penetrate immediately. This quality stems from the thematic cohesiveness produced by trenchant cultural and art-historical tropes distributed among the paintings. Judging by the fluidity of his marks and line, Greene generates these allusions intuitively, with minimal contrivance.
Craftily Gustonian blobs, scarifications, and contraptions or agitating Munch-esque shapes inhabit pieces like Mainspring; Marquee; The Outer Limits; Red Waves, Rays and Diamonds; Siren; and Wired, Strung and Tied. Spy vs. Spy, featuring triangles that chase and evade each other, references Antonio Prohias’ sardonically non-verbal Cold War-era comic strip in Mad magazine. There’s quite a bit of red, white, and blue in the work, suggesting an abiding concern about the state of the nation. Hologram and Containment incorporate the same thought-bubbled imagery in different colors and patterns, intimating that reasons for geopolitical crises can be fanciful.
Anchoring the work in the real world – and harking back to the analog way of life – is Greene’s frequent use of old newspapers or diagrams for collaged surfaces. This lends weight and irony to a key point emanating from much of the work: that data about people, what they do, and what affects them is perpetually and invisibly emitted and recorded, concealed and erased. A digital miasma pulses from paintings like Are You Still Buzzing Around?; Crystallized and Seriffed; Eyeless Sight; Partially Submerged; Satellite; Speech Scrambler; Spy-ware Test Pattern; and Steven, Can You Feel My Vibrations? Greene’s direct observations about relentless information surround in both analog and digital eras resonate strongly with Chris Dorland’s compelling examination of its ramifications in his recent show “shellcode” at Lyles & King.
Taken together, the obtuse title piece News From Nowhere, the transparent Celestial Dusk and I’m Having Trouble with the Terminology, But I’m Into CB, the insouciant Casette Tape Retinal Imprint and Approaching The Legal Limit, and the mordant Fitting in its blithely coffin-like imagery might convey resignation to the confounding quality of this historical moment. Despair, however, is elusive here. In carefully intertwining signifiers of dread and lightness in each painting, Greene leavens sober contemplation with eye-rolling bemusement. His work might thereby capture the mindset of a sane person with a sufficiency of information and a desire to go on, reading a current newspaper. However humble, that is no mean feat.
“Steve Greene: News From Nowhere,” Frosch & Co., 34 East Broadway, New York, NY. Through October 15, 2023.
About the author: Jonathan Stevenson is a New York-based policy analyst, writer, and editor, contributing to the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and Politico, among other publications. He is a regular contributor to Two Coats of Paint.
Steve Greene’s afterimages (2017)