New York For his second solo show at this compact gallery, Paul Bloodgood displayed, alongside some of his paintings (dates ranged from 2008 to 2011), the collages that have for many years served him as source material. It was a smart move. Made by dicing images—his own or those of Pollock, Cézanne and Ming dynasty artist Tung Ch’i-ch’ang—and then reassembling the parts in an ill-fitting jigsaw, the collages (approx. 12 by 10 inches) reveal the intricate interplays that inspire repeated motifs in his canvases, such as craggy lines and amorphous color blocks. They also make for formally engaging splintered compositions, which bring to mind a hand-decorated porcelain vase that has been shattered and glued into a new shape.
For some years now, the collages have been used to create paintings that are distinctly abstract yet maintain some sense of the landscape. Standing in front of Bloodgood’s oils, one is deeply impressed by the artist’s offbeat perspective and resolute pursuit of his own language. Grid lines, part of this language, are featured in four of the five new paintings, where they contribute a graphic, expressive energy. In the stark- ly disjointed, 48-by-58-inch Objects in Pieces (2011), also the title of the show, the faint grid provides both a foil and a structure for the coarsely painted chunks of firehouse red, charcoal black and dirty green, that hover, rarely touching or conjoining, on the picture plane.
In 2010, Bloodgood (b. 1960) suffered a head injury, leaving him with an optical disorder that prevents him from recognizing a whole object if he sees only parts of it. (Yes, our brains normally complete what we see.) According to the gallery, the artist has since changed his process and is relying on his impairment, rather than collages, to create his fragmentary abstractions. This could explain the marked shift in Objects in Pieces; it has a sense of being in the thick of things, a zooming in, as opposed to a deliberate fracturing and arranging. The accentuated density of elements and the intensity of this particular painting make it his most accessible and instantly gratifying canvas to date.
However, overall, the works are consistent. In fact, two small canvases, Study for Thing Language (2011) and Thing Language 2 (2011), are both named after his last exhibition. The continuous flow of ideas and imagery, not only from piece to piece but from one body of work to another, is clearly essential to the artist. Bloodgood is what one might call a stoic painter: someone who builds his oeuvre inch by inch, slowly and thoughtfully.
Photo: Paul Bloodgood: Objects in Pieces, 2011, oil on board, 48 by 58 inches; at Newman Popiashvili.