Mr. Clean

As we grow older, we eagerly anticipate such moments of low-wattage sublimity as those that come from getting the kitchen really clean— sparkling and smelling slightly of bleach. Such familiar, unsung domestic bliss is the source of George Stoll's art. His new works are small, wall-hung objects that replicate rectangular, store-bought kitchen sponges. His color scheme appears convincingly close to the A&P versions, and, like those, these come in groups of one, two, four, or nine. Nonetheless, the visual effect dazzles with serial combinations of his eight-color found palette.

Ghosts of the abstract masters haunt the exhibit. Untitled, Sponge Painting (raspberry/orange) is a shrunken, sideways Rothko, and Untitled (white/orange) could be an Ellsworth Kelly maquette. Not long ago, to refer to such artists with petrified sponges would have been nastily ironic, but no longer. These feel celebratory and 100 percent sincere.

In his last show, Stoll replicated toilet paper with enough verisimilitude to briefly fool the eye. Similarly, with these balsa wood sponges, he deliberately leaves evidence of his hand as signals of artifice, allowing room for the household poetic reverie they inevitably provoke. Unlike with toilet paper, whose decorativeness always seems a bit surreal, making kitchen sponges bright and gay seems to be simple, mass-produced generosity.


Mr. Clean
George Stoll
Thomas Healy
530 West 22nd
Through November 28

Stoll's dedication to the ubiquitous, unvalued by-products of daily life gives his work an appealing weightlessness despite the laboriousness of its manufacture. In that, it has much in common with Steve Wolfe's exacting replicas of books and records, except that Wolfe reproduces things you keep. Stoll wants you to appreciate the things you quickly discard but that maintain life in the closest state to godliness we may ever know: cleanliness.

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