Scott Anderson: “Supper Club”

at Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

“Salsa Wash,” 2016, Scott Anderson, Oil, graphite and oil crayon on canvas
Photo: Courtesy the Artist and CES Gallery

“Supper Club,” is a small, elegant display of eight paintings, large to medium in size, evoking the social and physical situations of food consumption. Anderson’s painterly credentials are clear -deft command of complex compositional gymnastics, accomplished digestion of modernist influences (among them Matisse, Motherwell, Gorky, de Kooning), assurance with a gamut of shapes and lines that constantly jockey for position, and a fresh color palette.

Few commentators have recognized the debt that Anderson owes to Neo Rauch, very visible in his work from 2009 but thoroughly integrated into a Cubist syntax by 2014. The existence of extruded substances-toothpaste-like in Anderson, paint-like in Rauch-the spatial anarchy predicated on-but subversive of-linear perspective, the color schemes, often poster like or evocative of the early days of color printing, are clear particularly in Salsa Wash and Interfaith Leftovers (both 2016). Interfaith Leftovers: it could be a title for post-modernist practice. What is truly dystopian about Anderson’s work, which I would not characterize as abstraction, as other writers have, is this sense of working with the table scraps of other artists and somehow re-combining them into a new cuisine. While Rauch takes modernist devices and reinserts them into a 19th-century painting style, thus turning them on their head, Anderson’s project is engaging post-modernism on its own turf, subtly critiquing its key premises. At what point does the collage of multicultural signs and references fragment into abstraction? It all hinges on the scale of the components, and Anderson ensures they are just large enough to invite recognition.

Salsa Wash which sports a vertical pink Rauchian balloon/sausage near its center, suggests the unsavory possibility of a melting pot, a stew, wherein the comically isolated fruits at the bottom await their turn to be liquidized or diced, possibly by the apparent knife-blades just above them. Anderson’s jocund critique of food consumption might appear flippant if he were not using this as a vehicle to re-invent the post-modernist “battery de cuisine,” surely the seminal task of any mid-career artist worth his salt.

-David Olivant