I stopped in at Pocket Utopia this afternoon (Sunday) and was lucky enough to meet gallery owner Austin Thomas when she had a few minutes to spare for me. What a refreshing change she is from the gallery greeters who look through me, or worse, look directly at me with a sneer as if I’m wasting their precious and rarefied oxygen. Why do they assume I’m not a collector? I’m not, of course, but if I were, I would dress exactly the same. Maybe even worse.
Sorry. Off topic. I went to Pocket Utopia to see Sharon Butler’s new show Precisionist Casual. I first met Sharon last fall, when she came to SVA as a visiting artist and gave me a wonderful critique of my paintings. I’ve always liked the images in her work. They’re not pictures so much as schematics, or hints of pictures to come, or (my favorites) her subject matter distilled into clean lines, chalky colors, and subtle tone-on-tones. They expertly straddle the line between figuration and abstraction.
One more thing that makes Sharon’s art special is that it takes the question of art beyond subject matter, shape, and color and also raises questions of modernism and post-modernism while she plays with her painting supports. Some paintings are on traditionally stretched canvases, but the staples are all showing. Some paintings are on raw laundered canvas. There are some on cheap canvas boards, and one in which the staples are on the wrong side of the stretcher bars. There is even a pile of paintings leaning together against the wall. It’s quite deliberate, so what is she saying? There are paintings which create space and others which do not. And yet put on flat canvas versus dimensional stretchers, the space created becomes arbitrary. She could remove it at any time. So she is reminding us that painting is an illusion, and she, not you, is in control of it.
The images are simple and engaging. The titles are provocative. The F train drops you practically on the doorstep. So go.