Intersect Aspen Picks:
What do these ten works have in common? It might simply be a shared understanding that the human condition is somewhat absurd. And while I’ve always been drawn to art that underlines our shared quirks, foibles, and minor stupidities, I also find myself tugged in a figurative direction here. Maybe it’s the fact of not seeing too many other humans these days, and being able to transport so quickly, through these images, into other lives, other rooms. After all, you don’t have to socially distance from a painting.
Some of these works are escapist; others shine a harsh light on the current moment and all its vulgar heat. Mark Thomas Gibson’s A Cruel Gruel of Fools (2019) depicts a bubbling cauldron full of quickly dissolving Klansmen and other cretins, set against a MAGA-red background. Peter Williams’s Mortal ICE (2019) looks innocent enough—a car ride through hallucinatory terrain—although its title suggests a predatory edge to the landscape, in which the hills literally have eyes.
Elsewhere, we’ve got a topless woman undergoing a canine transformation (Sara Vide- Ericson’s I Wanna Be Your Dog) and a man visited by several smiling, muscle-bound cherubim (Orkideh Torabi’s I asked for a hero). Now that the world has been turned upside down, nothing seems strange anymore.
I’ve rounded out my selection with paintings that suggest a glass half full. Yves Tessier’s À la Bonne Franquette (roughly translated as “unfussy”) reminds me of the basic pleasures we still have left, even when anxiously quarantined away: food, sex, literature. And now I’m realizing that I’ve chosen two works that feature birds: Thornton Dial’s wild watercolor, The United States and Freedom, and Matthew Fischer’s faux- kitschy painting of a seagull coasting over the ocean at night. That urge to fly away, it seems, is strong.
Scott Indrisek is the former deputy editor of Artsy and editor-in-chief of Modern Painters. He's currently the managing editor at Lemonade.