"The Very, Very Best of Thomas Trosch At Fredericks Freisure Gallery," Brooklyn Rail / by Fredrick Munk

By James Kalm

"Easy access," I've heard art dealers say that's what their clients are looking for in their art excursions these days.  Problem is, with the glut of galleries, fairs, and massive "new talent" shows like The Armory Show, Scope, Working in Brooklyn, The Whitney Biennial, and Greater New York, (which despite curatrorial efforts seems to keep serving up homogenized predigested versions of the same three paintings), it's gone beyond "easy access" to something approaching force-feeding.  If we were French geese, our aesthetic livers would explode.  Fortunately, for those with a more adventurous nature, art observers pursuing the more extreme off the tourist track fair, there are occasional opportunities to catch a glimpse of artwork that doesn't fit the "taste of the week" club.  Recent shows by both Chris Martin uptown at Uta Scharf, and Geoff Davis at Andre Zarre in Chelsea demonstrate that sometimes the gatekeepers of good decorum, and the bottom line are asleep at the switch.

Thomas Trosch is another example of an artist who, though not a household name, is held in high regard by enthusiasts of the marginal, eccentric, and totally personal statement.  Trosch is an acquired taste, and though not a taste of the week, he could be of next year.  "The Very, Very Best of Thomas Trosch" is a miniretrospective covering work from about the past fifteen years, and though there are progressions, developments, and changes the uniqueness of his vision is clear. Trosch, for all his cultivated kinks, and excruciating mannerisms, shows he's in possession of painterly skills that can convincingly combine a variety of techniques from wispy pencil lines on bare canvas, to drippy opaque washes, to peanut-butter thick knifing, to thrown and tube squeezed paint blobs.  This diversity of surface incident recalls the better periods of Cy Twombly, and his scrawling drawings enhanced with turd thick clumps of paint.

The feminine focus on ladies who lunch, who visit artists studios and vernassages, who sip cocktails and have lovely matching accessories, reduces the males present to mere extras.  The extravagant almost sculptural thickness of the figures, the unapologetic decorativeness and the exceedingly sweet colors have linked Trosch's work admittedly with that of Florine Stettheimer, the 57th Street heiress and hostess of one of New York's grand "Jazz Age" solons.  A more contemporary comparison might be made to the dramatic narrative pieces by Nicolas Africano. "Japanese Lesson #17" (1992) is the earliest and one of the largest pieces in this show.  And it combines women with large bug-eyes, and text bubbles filled with conversations from phrase books designed for visiting businessmen.  Though both of these devices seem to have disappeared in the more recent pieces, considering the dates, they should be seen as precursors to the anime fad of characters with over sized eyes presented so often recently, as well as the rant containing bubbles produced by Amy Wilson, that when seen in quantity, read as left-wing schtick.  Trosch seems to revel in the discordant contrasts thrown up between his style of free wheeling paint slinging (yang) and his depictions of doll-like society ladies (yin).  As these ladies mingle, strolling amongst a collection of art objects displayed as prestige commodities, the artist uses backgrounds of Abstract Expressionist paintings and biomorphic sculpture as a painterly foil to the elegant women in pastel evening gowns, and platinum blond hairdos.  This disturbing discrepancy reads like an image of the 1950's layout wherein "profoundly ugly" Pollocks are props for fashion models, rendered by a painter channeling both Stanley Kowalski and Blance DuBois.