New review on Artforum Online


Otis Jones and Bret Slater

1411 Dragon Street
May 17–July 26


View of “Otis Jones and Bret Slater,” 2014.

Otis Jones and Bret Slater each make spare, nearly monochromatic paintings that are injected with basic shapes of opposing colors. Both artists toy with oddly shaped canvases and an elementary language of marks and forms. Nominally, their work seems primed to elicit a correspondence, which is the occasion for their latest exhibition together, but upon closer inspection Jones and Slater are making very different paintings.

Slater’s art tends toward the miniature and the raucous. He frequently slathers garish paint on tiny canvases with a comically crude irreverence, which sometimes succeeds with boldness but can also occasionally falter with a lack of nuance. Humboldt, 2013, is Slater’s most deftly crafted painting in this exhibition; its poured, creamy surface holds two irregular craters of milky-white circles that glow with a muffled seductive haze. This standout painting is buttressed by a restrained color choice, which serves to highlight the delicate patina of the painterly surface.

Jones, in turn, confidently and consistently embeds intricacies within his formal vocabulary. In all of his works, including Pink with 3 Circles, 2014, Jones creates constructed objects as much as painted flat surfaces. Each painting has rounded corners and includes stacked glued layers of plywood anchored behind the canvas. The artist casually and excessively staples the canvas to the wood frame, making each seemingly slapdash construction decision one of aesthetic import. The dots and lines in the elegantly spare Two Lines One Moved, 2014, resemble the iconic symbols of Tantric painting or the 1980s Atari video game Breakout. These references enliven Jones’s art and tether an associative richness to an already distinctive physical presence.

— Matthew Bourbon