Time Out New York / Aug 5-11, 2010


Spray paint is associated first and foremost with graffiti, but this unassuming exhibition sidesteps wild style in favor of a more restrained, abstract take on the quintessentially modern medium. Featuring work by artists who came of age both before and after the advent of the hip-hop mural, “Spray!” (gotta love that exclamation point) begins in 1963 with David Smith’s Untitled and brings things up to date with works by Rosy Keyser and Keltie Ferris. Smith, an influential sculptor, is the only artist here who makes direct reference to objects, using various bits ’n’ bobs as stencils in his likably spontaneous work on paper. Yayoi Kusama employs scraps of netting to make her Mid-Summer Star Cloud (1978), but its all-over composition ultimately discourages a figurative reading.

Perhaps more surprisingly, only a few of the artists in the show—Katharina Grosse and Robert Moskowitz are two who come to mind—actually exploit spray paint’s capacity for generating ethereal, edgeless clouds of tone and color. Most of the rest prefer to wield the aerosol can as a line-making tool, creating expansive gestural loops (Dan Christensen’s large-scale Pavo from 1968) or radiant networks (Ferris’s KF + CM 4EVER from 2010).

Image: View of "Spray," 2010.