Daniel Reich Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Milwaukee based artist Scott Reeder.
Reeder’s virtuoso mixture of functional humor, painterly skeins and readily encyclopedic vocabulary gleans from art history to articulate something resolute and wonderfully “out-of-style” in this exhibition. While his work still expresses a deep social ambivalence completely at home in our recessionary time, Cubist Cokehead is so stuffed with immediate painterly pleasures, mad-passages, tropical insouciance and economy of gesture, that it is an indulgent pleasure to behold. In this way, the show is a breakthrough, a significant change, which adheres to the artist’s skepticism with painting excellence. A sublime green monochrome features stacks of money in intimate relaxation. While preposterous, a dollar-bill couple is pictured in genuinely tender repose. Reeder describes himself as an agnostic: ambivalent about the painting media itself which is perhaps the reason for his use of it to matter-of-factly depict a somewhat claustrophobic world where aspiration and disappointment intertwine and belief is tenuous. The recalcitrant nature of Reeder’s vocabulary (including bread and butter, nickels and dimes, flowers and police officers) has a poorness and material profanity revealing the limitations of social imagination in the face of practicality. The practice of painting mundane subjects allows Reeder entrance into an enhanced plane, like the character in Cubist Cokehead, yet with cautious elation. His paintings have weird realism in the familiarity of their unflattering reflections: reductive inanimate objects as stand-ins for contemporary man. A piece of bread and a stick of butter naturally belong together, but Reeder often depicts them emotionally together and apart – succinctly distilling the fleeting nature of human connection. In Cops Ascending Staircase, riot cops become a series of geometric shapes rushing upwards, Reeder conveys real fear and the anxiety of somehow failing the airport baggage check. Reeder’s bread and butter paintings pertain to need, an instinct further emphasized by the nourishing materiality of his brushwork.
With the full fervor of the medium’s potential, Reeder’s wry works cross into perhaps an anachronistic authenticity in an intensity of brushwork and poetic banality. Reeder’s moments of truth are complicated by a profusion of reference. With a shape, Reeder suggests a dialogue with Pablo Picasso and a conundrum of figurative representation possesses the heat of Philip Guston. Additional aspects suggest a mélange of Henri Matisse, Milton Avery and Pierre Bonnard. Orchestrated and competent, Reeder’s work seems more part of a historic continuum – perhaps too singular to be outright appropriation yet “appropriative.” In the American context, half-measures and loss are surely evident in Reeder’s beloved ailing midwestern town of Milwaukee, yet the energy he captures is universal and timely.
Scott Reeder is a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago. His work was recently included in Pretty Ugly at Gavin’s Brown’s Enterprise and will be included in Constellations at the MCA, Chicago. He is also a curator and organizer and of the Milwaukee International Dark Fair, the Dark Fair at the Swiss Institute and Dark Fair at Art Cologne in Germany.