Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery, 522 NW 12th
I can already hear the lips smacking and purses opening, which means that Tim Bavington's show at Pulliam Deffenbaugh must be approaching. This is the guy who makes West Coast art critics like Christopher Knight wet their pants and say things like, "These are paintings about the joyful possibilities of painting. Bavington's complex, sure-footed abstractions establish a sophisticated and luxurious universe." This British-born painter is on fire right now, and his stripe paintings are at the forefront of the new abstraction wave rolling in from Vegas and LA. Along with the artist known as Yek, Bavington may be the most visible artist to graduate from Camp Dave (aka UNLV)--yet curiously, I can't bring myself to care.
Bavington makes stripe paintings--vertical bands of color that softly blur into one another and employ a decidedly cool, consumerist color palette. They belong to the Ultralounge aesthetic, as defined by Dave Hickey in the exhibit of the same name, and codified in last year's Site Santa Fe Biennial. In a nutshell, his abstractionists try to out-groovify one another, each making the slickest but tackiest, easy-on-the-eyes object or painting possible. Astroturf, black velvet, M&M colors, and mahogany retro-kitsch are central to the movement. To hell with substance--the more frivolous, baroque, and decorative, the better.
To get an idea of what this work is like, eat a bunch of Pixie Sticks and stare at a lava lamp while listening to the American Idol CD. I guess the idea is to make art so polished and visually appealing that nobody will realize that there's nothing under the surface. I've seen black light posters more challenging than this shiny shit. Is nobody saying how much this work sucks because Hickey is championing it? Would anybody else agree with me if I proposed that Hickey is an interesting writer and an entertaining character, but that his taste in art after Vija Celmins is dreadful? Can 50 million Hickey fans be wrong? Or are we really a culture that prefers Moulin Rouge to Monster's Ball? CHAS BOWIE