David Ebony's Top 10 New York Gallery Shows for January
By David Ebony
1. Jirǐ Georg Dokoupil at Paul Kasmin, through February 7.
Jirĭ Georg Dokoupil has a cult following in Europe, but his work is less known in the U.S. This stunning show, his first New York solo in over 20 years, will hopefully improve the situation. On view is a group of large, recent abstract canvases made with a rather novel technique using pigment-infused soap bubbles. In these paintings, colorful, translucent, sometimes iridescent blobs, most set against dark monochrome grounds, seem to pulsate in rhythmic clusters and layers in allover compositions of ambiguous space and depth. At times the forms resemble jellyfish undulating in the depths of the ocean, or amoebas quivering under a microscope.
On some level, the works correspond to Color Field painting, and it makes sense for them to appear at Kasmin, a gallery that often features works of the genre. But it would be a mistake to consider Dokoupil's work in Color Field's formalist terms. Throughout his career he has been most concerned with process, and his work changes dramatically from series to series. In fact, he has deliberately avoided settling into any kind of definable school or style.
Like many artists of his generation, Dokoupil, a native of Czechoslovakia, born in 1954, fled his homeland in 1968, following the Soviet invasion. He worked in Cologne and Düsseldorf, where he established a reputation for neo-expressionist works in the 1980s, and later for an acclaimed series of figurative paintings with psychosexual and political themes, made with the soot from burning candles. If ever some adventurous curator puts together a Dokoupil museum retrospective here, it would appear to the uninitiated as a very eccentric group show. Meanwhile, the mesmerizing “soap bubble" works in this exhibition mark an unforgettable milestone in his unorthodox career.