Review: Merlin Carpenter, Paint-It-Yourself

Reena Spaulings Fine Art, January 31-March 1, 2020

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five of 10 very blank canvases

Let’s first say, the trying task of finding this gallery probably adds to the allure of Reena Spaulings as a space, a downtown second-floor hideaway above a bustling (and I’m going to add delicious) Chinese restaurant. The entrance stairwell, lightless, is accessed by venturing through a gaping door maw above a subway exit. I made friends with a lost Australian filmmaker on her first month of a Visa with an artistic curiosity.

We ascend the stairs together, all the while my friend insisting we must be trespassing as I’m suspecting the feeling of exclusion and threat is most certainly of design and desired by the gallery- an escape room of sorts for gentrific 20-somethings seeking their soul’s calling in “the mystery” of art. At the second floor a statuesque, black-clad gallerina closes the door in my face before we might enter, so I proceed to knock.

Now here is where the arc of this art mystery steadies and declines. We gain access and pass through German speakers drinking seltzer fresh from an-ice filled, over-sized garbage can. We pass through cold, conspicuous stares and anxious glancings of young gathering spectators. I see the elevated gallery, wall to wall with maybe 5 x 5′ blank and pristinely-prepared canvases.

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“Paint-It-Yourself” instructs the press release along with maybe 10 introduction-to-philosophy-level paragraphs on the artist’s “oeuvre” sprinkled with thoughts on mirrors, climate change, and politics. It was all pretty self-important.

Low and behold, the Germans and twenty somethings crawl toward the box of oil paints in the center of the space and begin to paint, I can’t shake the notion I’m attending the 11th hour-planned birthday party of an unloved, well-off child. The party has nice dressings, a fancy entryway, a spectacle and activity, but is ridden and heavy from a lack of care or meaning.

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I decide to paint rather than continue in the causal “should we or shouldn’t we” on-looker dialogues and social constructions I’m sure Mr. Carpenter claims within which can be found his true intent. It is such an over-explored intent, Merlin, and the shouldn’t is found in you making money from this or making more work of undergrad Foundations critique caliber. I’ve seen your other art, next time, paint it yourself.

Addendum: I will admit, I enjoyed painting for a few minutes-I’m a painter, so I also know you shouldn’t encourage young adults and children in attendance to finger-paint with cadmium red. That’s both a liability issue and a health hazard.

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my frog contribution

 

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