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Paul Sietsema
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois
by Robin Dluzen


Paul Sietsema, "Brush painting (green)," 2012, enamel on dyed canvas 27 x 26 1/2". Photo: Ron Amstutz, courtesy of the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

Continuing through January 5, 2014

It’s easy to be first drawn to Paul Sietsema’s work for his extraordinary technical facility. In this exhibition, the most extensive survey thus far of the Los Angeles-based artist’s oeuvre, a vast array of textures, objects and images are translated through his masterful trompe l'oeil hand on paper, via sculpture and on 16mm film. His grayish, neutral palette suggests wear and age while simultaneously democratizing the histories of the various subjects he has assembled.

Some works, like "Concession Drawing 4," an ink on paper work depicting a large tombstone shape inscribed in French, feel like ambiguous relics of unknown circumstances. Most others speak towards art history. A suite of enamel works on canvas contains what appears to be tools and brushes drenched in puddles of paint, while a series of almost identical sailboat images are likely derived from a photograph. With his super-flat, impeccable hand-rendering, the artist takes both the gesture out of the spilled paint and the mechanical reproduction out of the printed image, illustrating his unique position in a gray area of contemporary image making.


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