Synching Message and Medium

Cary Liebowitz shows that words need not detract from a powerful image

The new show by Cary Liebowitz, aka Candy Ass, at Kreps comes as a bit of a revelation.

I’ve always been taken more by Liebowitz’s humor than by his means. The trademark Liebowitz goofiness functions here in a similar way as in Richard Prince’s cartoon paintings. The nebbishy art-fag persona put across by the written messages of the works has almost always overwhelmed the singular works I have seen in group shows and museum exhibitions. When visual artists use words in their images, they almost always act like a smoke screen, causing a disconnect between the image and its medium. You can’t see what you are looking at for the reading of the words.

In “those shoes are hideous—they go with my belt” the wry dialogue obscures a real sophistication in presentation. The Jethro Boudin letters are Hollywood faux naïve and the pink enamel plank is a jokey Ellsworth Kelly hit. Kelly’s shaped canvas comes up again in “don’t jump,” a beige panel with an inverted triangle cut into it that resembles a cartoon valley between two mountains. In a marriage of Kelly’s shaped parallelograms and Joe Zucker’s poured- paint ships of last season, Liebowitz gives us George Washington—George Jefferson,” a cartoon simplification of a boat at sea—one panel at night, one in daylight.

Also on view are Liebowitz’s “multiples”—his attempt at reaching across all price points. Taking a page from the minimalists who were famous for calling in to order the fabrication of their work, Liebowitz here presents a group of knit furnishings and supermarket signs done to his specifications. Strangely, it is real indication of the times we live in that simply by invoking the names of Abraham Lincoln, Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, Oseola McCarty and Nina Simone, a work is tagged as being political, especially when they are knit scarves, mittens and Scotch tam-o’-shanters.

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