DOUG WADA Americana


Doug Wada, "Bicentennial." Image © Doug Wada, courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York.

Americana is the name of Doug Wada’s smart, smashing show of new paintings, which coolly depict spot-on artifacts/icons of postwar American life. Each element of Wada’s almost trompe l’oeil array of coolers, striped barber poles, swivel stools, vintage salon hair dryers, water fountains, gas pumps, and turnstiles—usually seriatim—is drawn to scale and placed at the height associated with the real thing. White-grounded and tightly fielded, the images seem to jump out from the wall, alternating between 3-D and flat. Their no-frills retro-populism, however, is subverted by Wada’s luscious, value-added brushwork in up-market oil on linen, which turns the mass-produced into the singular and valuable. These (once) mundane objects, pointed in their selection, prompt multiple narratives besides that of formalism. One of them might be a comparison between the innocence and optimism of mid-century, when a gas pump was just a gas pump, and the skepticism and cynicism of today, when it’s a pipeline to hell. This double read lends social and political heft to Wada’s dead-ended, pure products of America, taking them beyond just another well-executed, nostalgic, post-post riff on Minimalism and Pop.


Lilly Wei