CANADA Is Making Painting Great Again

After being passed down from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, the groan-inducing “Make America Great Again” slogan has found its way into the art world. But in this case, sarcasm, instead of xenophobic ignorance, oozes delightfully out of its use. Lower East Side gallery CANADA wants to Make Painting Great Again, as the title of its current exhibition suggests.
Sarcasm aside, it is somewhat humorous that the exhibition will be up through Independence Day and that, amongst the grand total of 17 painters included in the show, 15 of them were born in the US. All but one is represented by CANADA.
Perhaps these are also playful nods to the jingoistic and non-inclusive rhetoric of Trump—or, maybe it’s just pure coincidence. But in any case, the works on display here joyfully diverge from the overly academic, zombie formalism-style painting that has plagued the medium's upper echelons in the past few years. Maybe painting is on its way to becoming great again, no joke.
There is a fair amount of playfulness on display here, a refreshing departure from the medium’s tendency to be serious and calculated. Katherine Bernhardt’s enormous spray-painted canvas is a tropical 90’s throwback, mixing graffiti-esque renderings of Lisa Simpson with neon pink-outlined cigarettes, palm tree leaves, and basketballs.
June 23, 2016
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