DAMIEN HIRST The Complete Spot Paintings 1986 2011
GAGOSIAN GALLERY | JANUARY 12 – FEBRUARY 18, 2012
Wandering through the New York portion of Damien Hirst’s global extravaganza “Spot Paintings,” I found myself thinking of Dutch tulips and sub-prime mortgages. One wonders whether the bubble will ever pop. Will people ever realize that these paintings are not consistently good art, and consequently are not great investments? Goldman Sachs. Gagosian. Can an institution be accused of selling products that it knows are worthless? Or is that just market-making? Damien Hirst has many provocative works to his credit. But this outsized spectacle by the self-professed “colorist” only highlights a dearth of inspiration and exposes how meagerly the power of color is deployed. “Spot Painting” (1986), the very first of the series, is ironically one of the most appealing in the show. Irregularly shaped, drippy dots in 12 colors meld into an overall field that is alive with movement. From then on, however, the paintings become clinical and formulaic, differing mainly according to two variables: size of canvas and size of dot. Viewed from a distance, some works come close to achieving an unusual optical effect, such as when tightly spaced dots almost merge to gray in “Gourgerotin” (2010-11). In “Zeatin” (1998), a work in tondo format, the horizontal grid is abandoned; instead dots emanate from the center, resulting in lively rhythms and traces of elegant patterns that tease the eye. These, however, are the exception to the rule. The majority of the paintings are the dull products of mindless iteration of the rules. The flooded market somehow defies rational expectations and continues to flourish. What happens next? Who can remember?
CORINA LARKIN is a painter and writer who lives in New York City. She is also an editor of the Rail's ArtSeen section.