Joe Fig is a sculptor who is obsessed with painters, which may mean he’s a painter at heart, but never mind. In the past he’s made meticulous small-scaled reconstructions of the studios of Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning, Clifford Still, and Andy Warhol. For his second show at Plus Ultra, Fig fetishizes contemporary painters like never before in one large-sized rendition of the twin Long Island studios of Eric Fischl and April Gornick, and a series of 16 small-scaled models of various artist’s work tables. Every one of these is detailed down to tiny paint-encrusted palettes, teeny crumpled drawings, minuscule extension cords snaking on floors, plastic in the garbage cans, and discarded paint rags.
Each model is accompanied by an interview with the subject about his or her painterly practice. Here you’ll learn that in her studio Dana Schutz listens to right-wing radio all night long to get herself “pissed off,” that Gregory Amenoff once hurled an ax at the wall in frustration and that he paints between two huge old speakers (rock on, Gregory), and that Matthew Ritchie, who observes that “monkeys can paint too,” thinks that “graduate schools are a sham and should be abolished straight away.”
Too bad, because from the sound of this interview Ritchie seems like he’d be a fantastic teacher. Regardless, Fig zeros in on a fact that young artists are rarely told in art school: They are embarking on a career in which they will spend almost ungodly amounts of time totally alone in the self-made universe that is the studio. The thing that makes Fig’s art more than crafty kitsch and stops him from being just a Gepetto-bot is that he’s less interested in the artistic product than he is enamored of the creative process. This brings his work close to phenomenology.