Thomas Trosch

Fredericks Freiser Gallery

Thomas Trosch, “Is It a Crime” (2000), oil on canvas. Collection of David Humphrey.

“Easy access,” I’ve heard art dealers say, is what their clients are looking for in their art excursions these days. Problem is, with the glut of galleries, fairs, and massive “new talent” shows like the Armory Show, Scope, Working in Brooklyn, the Whitney Biennial, and Greater New York, it’s gone beyond “easy access” to something approaching force-feeding. If we were French geese, our aesthetic livers would explode. Fortunately, for those with a more adventurous nature, art observers pursuing the more extreme off-the-tourist-track fair, there are occasional opportunities to catch a glimpse of artwork that doesn’t fit the “taste of the week” club. Recent shows by both Chris Martin uptown at Uta Scharf and Geoff Davis at Andre Zarre in Chelsea demonstrate that sometimes the gatekeepers of good decorum, and the bottom line, are asleep at the switch.

Thomas Trosch is another example of an artist who, though not a household name, is held in high regard by enthusiasts of the marginal, eccentric, and totally personal statement. Trosch is an acquired taste, and though not a taste of the week, he could be of next year. The Very, Very Best of Thomas Trosch is a mini retrospective covering work from about the past fifteen years, and though there are progressions, developments, and changes, the uniqueness of his vision is clear. Trosch, for all his cultivated kinks and excruciating mannerisms, shows he’s in possession of painterly skills that can convincingly combine a variety of techniques, from wispy pencil lines on bare canvas to drippy opaque washes, from peanut-butter-thick knifing to thrown and tube-squeezed paint blobs. This diversity of surface incident recalls the better periods of Cy Twombly, and his scrawling drawings are enhanced with thick clumps of paint.

The feminine focus on ladies who lunch, who visit artists’ studios and vernissages, who sip cocktails and have lovely matching accessories, reduces the males present to mere extras. The extravagant, almost sculptural thickness of the figures, the unapologetic decorativeness, and the exceedingly sweet colors have admittedly linked Trosch’s work to that of Florine Stettheimer, the 57th Street heiress and hostess of one of New York’s grand Jazz Age salons. A more contemporary comparison might be made with the dramatic narrative pieces by Nicolas Africano. “Japanese Lesson #17” (1992) is the earliest and one of the largest pieces in this show. It combines women with large bug eyes and text bubbles filled with conversations from phrase books designed for visiting businessmen. Though both of these devices seem to have disappeared in the more recent pieces, considering the dates, they should be seen as precursors to the anime fad of characters with oversized eyes that has been presented so often recently, as well as the rant-containing bubbles produced by Amy Wilson that when seen in quantity read as left-wing schtick. Trosch seems to revel in the discordant contrasts thrown up by his style of freewheeling paint slinging and his depictions of doll-like society ladies. The artist uses backgrounds of abstract expressionist paintings and biomorphic sculpture as a painterly foil to the elegant women in pastel evening gowns and platinum blonde hairdos strolling among a collection of art objects displayed as prestige commodities. This disturbing discrepancy reads like an image of the 1950s layout wherein “profoundly ugly” Pollocks are props for fashion models, rendered by a painter channeling both Stanley Kowalski and Blanche DuBois. 

Contributor

James Kalm

JAMES KALM has written extensively on the Brooklyn art scene.  In 2006 he began posting video reviews of local art exhibitions at his two YouTube channels that have generated over six million views.

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