contribution to 2010 Whitney Biennial Catalogue
Left to right: Richard Aldrich, Angie Adams/Franz Kline, 2010-2011. Richard Aldrich, Zig-Zag Cubism, 2010-2011
“One kind of sleight of hand turns into another, with effusive energy sa sa sa sa sa,” exhorts Richard Aldrich in one of the bantam prose poems that form part of his multifaceted practice—he is a musician and recording artist in addition to being primarily a painter. Ranging from gestural abstraction to incipient portraiture, from dusty-hued patinas and faint washes to crudely collaged canvases and densely layered corners, from monochromatic stand-ins to cut paintings, Aldrich’s image repertoire evinces a whimsical amusement and quizzical remove. Open to change and continually finding new ways of starting out, Aldrich’s work insinuates its overall impression through stylistic detours, courting variation and even contradiction, while nevertheless positing his maneuvers as kindred and consonant. Neither parodic nor engaged with the pitfalls and pretensions of endgame dialogs regarding the oft-heralded demise of painting, Aldrich’s gamesmanship seems joyful while harmonized with doubt.
As the artist has said regarding his penchant for tacking back and forth between mediums and fragmentary approaches, “often some sort of metamorphosis is necessary”; whether affixing dark green linen fabric from failed window curtains to a supine canvas lying about the studio, as with Bed, 2008, or exhibiting a ruminative large-scale variation next to a diminutive original in Large Treib Painting, 2008, and Treib Painting, 2007, Aldrich constantly shifts scale and surface. Sharp bursts of clarity alternate with droughts of obscurity and languorous stretches of nothing, sometimes within the same composition. Such attentiveness to the differences that arise between an idea or intention and the resulting composition animates Aldrich’s practice, welcoming second thoughts, pointing to nonappearances and colorful cameos alike, and thereby always making room for contingency. Working primarily with oil paint, wax, and found objects, an Aldrich installation manages to attain a serial yet disjunctive ambience in its stagecraft, releasing the everyday objects and hallucinatory moments it incorporates from the bracketed meanings of painterly discourse. Both protean and melancholy, Aldrich’s paintings reveal a longing for meaning and rules alongside a ready acknowledgement of this very impossibility.