If critic Clement Greenberg were alive today, what would he make of Aaron Curry’s new works in “Headspace,” a riveting show of mostly abstract paintings by the Texas-born, Los Angeles-based artist? The formalist champion of painters like Jackson Pollock and Frank Stella might regard Curry’s shaped-canvas compositions, such as Hot Mess, a revolting travesty, a total send-up of Stella’s post-1970s output. In a way, it is. Hot Mess, however, with its jagged contours, abrasive yellow background and hot-pink markings, may also be seen as a sincere homage to formalist abstraction, in its ad hoc approach, emphatic design, crisp draftsmanship, and coherent expression.
Curry’s Cosmic Bricoleur delivers what the title proposes, a chevron-shaped composition of psychedelic signs, graffiti tags, and spatial illusions that encompasses anything, everything and nothing. Fusing the visual idioms of graffiti, Abstract Expressionism, and Color Field painting is no mean feat, but Curry seems to have accomplished it here in vibrant paintings such as Command Minus and Head Trip. Surrealism seems to be part of Curry’s DNA, too, and with relatively conventional, rectangular-format images, including My Head Feels Weird and My Brain is an Antenna—a portrait-like painting with bulging eyes and fractured facial features against a brilliant blue background—Curry pulls Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst into his orbit. And why not? Curry at his best creates art about art, and mines unexpected if not forgotten areas of relatively recent art history. “Headspace” is definitely Curry at his best.