Time Out New York / Jan 28–Feb 3, 2010

Josh Dorman
MARY RYAN GALLERY

Josh Dorman lists Chinese ink landscapes, outsider art, and the oeuvres of Pieter Brueghel and William Turner among his inspirations. There are also strong hints of Max Ernst’s collage novels in Dorman’s dense mixed-media panels, while more pop-culturally oriented viewers might perceive a kinship with the madcap animations that Terry Gilliam assembled for Monty Python.

Layering snippets of engraved illustrations redolent of Victorian encyclopedias over yellowing vintage maps, before adding painterly touches in ink and acrylic, Dorman conjures an imaginatively reordered universe teeming with organic and artificial life. Often transforming his topographical grounds into sweeping rural landscapes, he sprinkles each scene with incongruous groupings of flora and fauna, machinery and architecture, achieving a semi-improvised orchestration of multiple diverse parts into something like a symphonic whole.

But while these works are packed with incident, they maintain a consistent style, with certain motifs and methods appearing repeatedly. Even in the less frenetic, more figuratively coherent works, Dorman plays fast and loose with perspective, combining multiple scales and viewpoints. Yaddo Land, Gloaming and Island all feature bridges or elevated roads, along which streams of objects and living things move in enigmatic procession. Many are coupled in unexpected ways: A hedgehog pokes around a miniature gallery, a tortoise has a movie projector strapped to its back, a pterosaur shares airspace with a great auk. Things get a little cutesy at times, but in all-over compositions like Tailspin—equal parts cosmography, abstraction, puzzle and game—Dorman amps up his whimsical maximalism to a beguiling kaleidoscopic intensity.

Image: Josh Dorman,Thirty-five Percent, 2009