Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Now that's an ironic title for a review of a Walter Robinson show, isn't it, especially for someone who claimed to have "stopped painting" in 1985 to become a fulltime editor? Yet, here we have a brand new body of work at the Dorian Grey Gallery in which Wally recapitulates the metaphors of casual desire which made him, briefly, an art star in the early 80s, as the inventor of "bad painting."

In truth Walter Robinson never stopped painting, although for decades the only people who ventured to his studio and put him in group shows were the brilliant artist Jane Dickson and myself. How Scott Fitzgerald described his own style in The Crackup, "fatal facility", delineates the Robinson practice and the Robinson influence. Even though Walter was stupidly not included in the Met's Pictures Generation exhibition a few years back, the ambiguity of his life's work made Robinson the avatar of his generation of painters and all that followed. The hamburgers, babes, beer bottles, whiskey, playing cards, medicine cabinets and trannies which emerge so easily from Robinson's brush may be too facile for the intelligentsia but they are fatal in their encyclopedic depiction of American's downmarket desires.

The critical reaction to Walter's work has also been facile and, until now, fatal to his painting career: Peter Schjeldahl writing in The New Yorker that Damien Hirst stole his spin paintings from Robinson, Jerry Saltz repeatedly claiming that Walter "should win a MacArthur". Ah yes, so many have come to praise Robinson as his career lay buried in his own struggle for sobriety and his editorial attentions to others. For, in truth, just as Walter's easy strokes invite dismissal, so his enabling art world persona made him dismiss his own studio genius. Yet, if only by osmosis, the great ironists of figuration, Currin, Peyton and Yuskavage and their legions of inferiors, owe everything to Walter's painting, while , as his new show proves, he remains a better painter than them!

In 1995, I took Walter to Jenny Schueler's Soho studio to see her "TV Dinner Series". Because her work looked exaclty like Robinson's own TV dinner series from many years before, and because she didn't even know that Walter was a painter, Robinson nearly lost it. "But", I told him then, "Isn't this proof of your genius? Don't you have the true power of the Zen master atop a hill whose mere thinking has the easy facility to change the world?" Chew on that burger for awhile and you will come to the absurd but true realization that Walter Robinson is the most influential American painter since Jasper Johns, and, thus, the greatest.

Charlie Finch

Monday, March 18, 2013


"I’m skeptical of the current fad for (easily salable) nostalgic dibbity-dab abstract paintings" - Andrew Russeth

"Since the economy tanked, we have become so accustomed to seeing so many artists churn out insipid, derivative drivel that we cannot imagine things any other way. The lemming abstractionist movement (also commonly referred to as the Martha Stewart School of Provisional Painting) still seems to have inexplicable hegemony over most of the art world." - Irena Jurek

"There is an overabundance of nostalgic abstract painting in the world today. Many of these works are shown and garnering attention in Manhattan's Lower East Side, in close proximity to the gallery that shows Liz's work. The system of art is lubricated for nostalgia: The dealer can easily talk about these paintings because they look like older art, the collector "gets it" because it is something that he or she has seen before, the artist feels comfortable since it gives him or her a relationship to "history", and comparing contemporary art is a trusty crutch taught in MFA programs. The job of the artist is to question - not to be boringly complicit with - all of these structures." - Carter Mull