Alan Turner at Lennon, Weinberg Inc.

Alan Turner, Puppet (1993), graphite and photocopy on vellum mounted on paper, 22″ x 18″; courtesy Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

Alan Turner, whose work is on view at Lennon, Weinberg Inc., makes a dry and diagrammatic comedy out of the human form.  Mr. Turner draws portions of the body–eyes, noses, hands and mysteriously familiar folds of flesh–and cuts, pastes and reconfigures them.  He mixes and matches these fragments with drawings of other favored subjects:  wallpaper patterns featuring fruit, corrugated cardboard, buckets and a crude caricature of what appears to be a soldier.

In one collage, a leaping figure composed of an arm, a leg and a bicycle wheel is roped by a lasso; in another, a goofy, mask-like face is constituted from–what exactly?  A piece of fruit?  A pregnant belly?  It’s hard to say.  Puzzling over these fleshy amalgamations is the point and the fun.

Mr. Turner’s imagistic slippages–fingers becoming teeth, an eye replacing the head of a hammer–recall Surrealism and Dadaism, albeit without the spark of either.  The artist take these precedents for granted and, as a result, there’s a concomitant flatness to the work.  Mr. Turner’s art is consciously–self-consciously–adept.  We admire the pictures less for their magic than for their artifice.

Which is, as it turns out, Mr. Turner’s gift.  His best pictures are the collages; they have a directness in approach the other work lacks.  Mr. Turner’s paintings, with their nubbly surfaces and queasy colors, are leaden in comparison and his drawings remind us that Surrealism was largely an illustrator’s game.  Mr. Turner’s art prospers on blatant bits-and-pieces–the more seamless his art the more humdrum it becomes.

Mr. Turner has a nice way with juxtaposing his repertory of images and a nicer way with gauging distinctions between materials.  The transparency of vellum; the graininess of pencil; the coarseness of photo-copied drawings; and scraps of tape–which dot his collages with this-is-all-there-is-to-it literalness–all are handled with surprising and pointed gentleness.  Mr. Turner’s rebuses are dexterous, droll and diverting.

(c) 2000 Mario Naves

A version of this article was originally published in the April 3, 2000 edition of The New York Observer.

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