jordan massengale at tachmes
Post #710 • January 17, 2006, 10:52 AM • 43 Comments
Can an artist have too much talent? I wonder as much regarding Jordan Massengale, presently showing work at Tachmes's homey new space through Feb. 28. Massengale can draw like an angel when called upon to do so, but the material that comes up in his work is distinctly samsaric. Low culture, violence, sex, and nutty randomness fill his imaginary landscapes. In his last works at Dorsch, he reached a crescendo of facility as he depicted animals in natural and unnatural habitats, looking elegant even as they gained ping pong ball eyes and scratchy hides of paint. Here, Massengale is trying to make a major pictorial statement: the multifigure composition, one of the toughest problems of figurative painting, even when approached with a contemporary attitude like this one. Talent makes such an attempt possible, and demands that the attempt be made. But Massengale has a phenomenal ability to discard past successes rather than build on them directly, making every other show that he has feel like he's reinventing the wheel.
I've written before that it's more interesting to watch Jordan screw up than to watch other artists succeed. He's not screwing up here, but I can feel the strain on his compositional abilities as he pushes his work towards greater complexity and import. He produced a good show and re-established himself as one of the major local talents. In time he'll start hitting the sweet spot again with his technique, and if he's still working this mode, the combination could prove eruptive.