Last spring’s late-Picasso blockbuster at Gagosian Gallery posited the nonagenarian as a potential role model for young artists today, a suggestion only partially rebuked by Scott Reeder. Reeder likewise takes sex and death as themes, but while Picasso raged, Reeder cracks jokes. With his characteristic slacker painting style and irreverent humor, Reeder’s work demonstrates just how wide the gap is between the 20th-century canon and the contemporary artists who appropriate it.
To his credit, Reeder isn’t anxious at all about the influence of modernism: His transformations of the subjects of classic Cubist portraits into coke whores, for instance, are funny. (After all, what are all those noses good for?) But while Duchamp’s addition of a mustache to the Mona Lisa was a groundbreaking act of cheek, Reeder’s alteration of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase into Cops Ascending Staircase seems like a cheap knockoff.
The entire show feels saddled with a pre-recessionary tone of sex and binge drinking, though Nickel & Dime (End of the World)—showing the two coins flanking a mushroom cloud—does convey an ominous vibe in keeping with the current economic meltdown. Still, if Reeder’s images illustrate anything, it’s that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Basically superficial, sometimes juvenile, Reeder’s paintings refuse to take life or art too seriously, which may limit their staying power, but makes for an entertaining show.
Originally published in Time Out New York, issue 725, August 20-26, 2009.