We Went to the LES: Caleb Considine’s Excellent Sneakers at Bureau

by Paddy Johnson and Corinna Kirsch on May 1, 2015 Reviews

trash theme

Caleb Considine, “Trash Theme”, 2015. Image courtesy of the gallery.

Caleb Considine
178 Norfolk Street
New York, NY 10002
Runs through May 3, 2015

What’s on view: six paintings, none larger than 20 x 24 inches, replete with an array of styles, from hyperrealistic detail to blurry abstraction, usually related to domestic or household objects

Corinna: “A portrait of the artist in his studio.” When you walk in, there’s this ultra-cool painting of white sneakers splashed with a digital-blue pigment so that it appears to be spraypainted. This very un-monumental painting is titled “A Decade of Brutality,” which is, I guess, a sarcastic thing to say about shoes.

I have very little to say about this show: the paintings bored me (excluding the shoes), though Considine excels at painting details like the dirt worn into a winter coat’s lining. I don’t want to be too demanding as a viewer, but I wasn’t given a reason to enter into Considine’s world, to consider or enjoy these paintings. Paddy, while we were out in the gallery, you mentioned Considine’s use of some trompe l’oeil conventions that are far too, er, conventional in art right now.

Paddy: Oh, I just meant that Considine seemed to gravitate towards rendering textured surfaces that resemble abstraction (a garbage can lid, peeling paint on a wall, et cetera), and within the field of representational painting you see that a lot—it’s a way to broaden the practice. Of course, Considine describes the only abstract painting in the show—an outlier—as an inclusion for its ability to fit so well into the context of the gallery. Which, well, sure, but that’s not saying much. Can anyone think of a painting that doesn’t fit into the context of a gallery?

Anyway, the show is a bit uneven, but that sneaker painting at the entrance makes any trip worth it IMO. The trompe l’oeil spraypaint splash is executed perfectly, but the shoes and background are such a consistent white that it’s hard to believe the original ever existed the way it’s rendered. It’s a very uncanny painting.

Caleb Considine, "A Decade of Brutality," 2015. Photo courtesy of the gallery.

Caleb Considine, “A Decade of Brutality,” 2015. Photo courtesy of the gallery.

Considine has some skill with paint. “Trash Theme,” a painting of a garbage-can lid, a broom, and some garbage bags may not be exciting subject matter, but he transforms the straw of the broom into a solid shape and patterned form, so there are areas where you can really get lost in the paint handling. Other paintings, such as “Vessel of Tannins,” a still-life depicting the tops of bottles, flopped. Stiff paint handling and dull subject matter don’t make great art.

Overall, I didn’t leave feeling like my world had been transformed. Considine’s not mining his subject matter all that deeply and the inclusion of that terrible abstract painting evidences that. Maybe it’s supposed to be another example of the mundane, but even so—it’s an example I could have done without.

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