Juan Uslé at Cheim & Read

Detail ImageJuan Uslé, I’m Home (2010), vinyl, dispersion and dry pigment on canvas, 24″ x 18″; courtesy Cheim & Read

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There’s never been a Juan Uslé show that I haven’t liked and there’s never been a Juan Uslé show that hasn’t proved frustrating.

Like Hans Hofmann, albeit nowhere near as epochal and considerably more blasé, Uslé is a good painter who paints few good paintings. The appeal of the work–its “goodness”, I guess–is the play-it-as-it-lays, from-the-ground-up process. Given the relative inflexibility of his materials, Usle’s improvisational layering of silky patterns, errant doodles and oddments of color either hits the mark or de-evolves into congested jumbles of painterly incident.

The latter is usually the case and rarely without interest, but I’m Home (2010) does the trick. Looking at the painting–it’s featured in Uslé’s current show at Cheim & Read–you know why the artist stayed his hand:  within economically, almost insouciantly stated means, the image achieves an uncanny, oddball rightness. It proves that the near-misses hanging nearby are less blunders than steps on a journey worth traveling.

© 2011 Mario Naves

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