Richard Patterson, Reclining Nude, 1998; oil on canvas; 58 x 44 inches; fractional and promised gift to the Denver Art Museum; courtesy the collection of Vicki and Kent Logan
Black Narcissus/Ellwood, L-word: Culture Station (Zipper) 1B, 2007; maple plywood, aluminum, motorcycle; 96 x 84 x 156 inches; courtesy the Goss-Michael Foundation, Dallas, and Timothy Taylor Gallery, London
As a member of the infamous Young British Artists (YBA) clan, Richard Patterson remains perennially young. Patterson paints with the deceptive freshness of firsts, skillfully eliding gravitas into bawdiness. His work looks simultaneously inward and outward: inward to the freighted history of the medium itself and outward upon the lustrous—if not lusty—surfaces of his adopted hometown of Dallas. What is made clear in his exhibition of two- and three-dimensional works at the Goss-Michael Foundation is that Patterson is also a serious thinker. One can discern the artist’s meticulous patterns of cogitation, his pushing of formal boundaries while negotiating a love of the viscosity of paint, pornography and midcentury-modern design.
A large-scale architectural sculpture, three-dimensional maquettes, collage/sketches, an assemblage in a Plexiglas box and gorgeously wrought paintings place the viewer within a bric-a-brac of the artist’s process. A series of studies for Exile on Jackson Street—a portrait of former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Amy Phelan—lines the entryway of the gallery. In each collage/sketch, Patterson mounts a trading-card image of Phelan atop a rectangular piece of cardboard and tapes a smaller piece of transparent plastic on top. He then smudges globs of paint on—and between—these layered surfaces. Study #4 for Exile on Jackson Street contains two cards and the script of Patterson dialoguing on American culture with someone called “Aaron.” “That’s exactly right, Aaron. What America is like…Amy in Virgin Blue. Just enough blue for the virgin’s panties.” At the end of the hallway is the actual portrait, which reveals Patterson’s preternatural ability to render a likeness with photorealistic precision. Particularly remarkable are the painting’s trompe l’oeil of shadows: the softly modeled indentations of Phelan’s stomach, as well as the shade cast by a giant glob of red paint.
Opposite the studies for Exile, maquettes for Patterson’s sculptures sit atop podiums lining the wall. Sculpture Study with Christina, Sculpture Study with Thomson and Abstract Sculpture Study read as extruded paintings, opening up like accordions, which at full-scale would create spaces for a viewer to navigate. That potential becomes a reality in the adjacent gallery, where Black Narcissus/Ellwood, L-Word: Culture Station (Zipper) 1B presents a life-sized set of wooden planes interlocked in nonfunctional De Stijl fashion. However, the planes also function architecturally as large shelving. One also doubles as flooring upon which rests a motorcycle and burnished flat-metal surfaces, with “skid marks” in mixed hues of thick paint. Other metal surfaces, silkscreened with monochromatic images from Patterson’s studio, connect the planes visually. The work feels cramped and under-lit, but this only fortifies the sensation that the viewer is walking through the artist’s mind. Reveling in potential, always pushing the edges of what a painting can be, Patterson’s work is impetuous, stuttering forth with ideas productively and provocatively unresolved.
Charissa Terranova is Assistant Professor of Aesthetic Studies and Director of Centraltrak, an artists residency at The University of Texas at Dallas.